Meyer Lemon Custard Cakes

Recently I was given a rare gift for a Minnesotan: a bag full of ripe Meyer lemons, grown on the tree – a Meyer lemon tree that lives in sunny California – of an acquaintance of mine.  What to do with Meyer lemons?  So many options, it turns out!

I decided to go for a custard dish, since I tend to favor the custard family for desserts (both in terms of taste and enjoyment of the process of making them).  Problem is, as much as I like eating and making custards, I’m not much of a baker, and so I still have very limited experience and even fewer recipes upon which I can rely.

Reliability: that’s a big one when it comes to baking. I’ll skip to the punchline here. The recipe I chose, which came from (GASP!) Martha Stewart, was just not that great. Perhaps technically speaking it was reliable: it did was it was supposed to do from a chemistry standpoint. But the flavor? Unfortunately, it was just meh. Granted, her recipe calls for regular lemon juice, and I used Meyer lemon juice. Meyer lemons are sweet, more mandarin-esque than regular lemons. So the end result lacked tartness. But it wasn’t just the flavor that I was disappointed with, Martha, it was the texture. You warned, me, I suppose, with the word “cake” in the recipe’s name, and the ingredient of “flour”. I was expecting a truly rich, thick pudding with a somewhat crusty top. What I got was an alright pudding (not as rich as I would have liked) and a cakey top.

If I were you, reading this post, I’d try making Martha’s recipe with regular lemons, as she calls for – and I’d ignore my own deviant behavior. I might even add a significantly larger quantity of zest. Shucks, I might just make an entirely different recipe.  I still have lots of Meyer lemon juice leftover, so hopefully I’ll have a more successful adventure that appropriately takes advantage of these lemons’ delicious flavor, and soon.

(Meyer) Lemon Custard Cakes

From Everyday Food (a Martha Stewart publication), 2004

  • Unsalted butter, room temperature, for custard cups
  • 3 large eggs, separated
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 2 to 3 teaspoons grated lemon zest, (1 lemon)
  • 1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • Confectioners’ sugar, for dusting

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Set a kettle of water to boil. Butter six 6-ounce custard cups and place in a dish towel-lined baking dish or roasting pan.

In a large bowl, whisk egg yolks and sugar until light; whisk in flour. Gradually whisk in lemon juice, then milk and zest.

With an electric mixer, beat egg whites and salt until soft peaks form. Add to lemon batter and fold in gently with a whisk (batter will be quite liquid).

Divide batter among prepared custard cups; place baking dish in oven and fill with boiling water to reach halfway up sides of cups. Bake until puffed and lightly browned (but pudding is still visible in bottom), 20 to 25 minutes. Serve slightly warm or at room temperature, dusted with confectioners’ sugar.

Here’s the thing: my cooking smarts need to get somebody else’s baking smarts’ number. Anyone care to help?

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2010 in review

The stats helper monkeys at WordPress.com mulled over how this blog did in 2010, and here’s a high level summary of its overall blog health:

Healthy blog!

The Blog-Health-o-Meter™ reads Fresher than ever.

Crunchy numbers

Featured image

A Boeing 747-400 passenger jet can hold 416 passengers. This blog was viewed about 2,700 times in 2010. That’s about 6 full 747s.

 

In 2010, there were 19 new posts, not bad for the first year! There were 337 pictures uploaded, taking up a total of 264mb. That’s about 6 pictures per week.

The busiest day of the year was August 29th with 108 views. The most popular post that day was A (Tongue) Twist on a Classic.

Where did they come from?

The top referring sites in 2010 were facebook.com, anniegetyourspoon.wordpress.com, minneapolis.craigslist.org, mail.yahoo.com, and mail.live.com.

Some visitors came searching, mostly for meal table, bean soup, white bean soup with chard and poached eggs, hearty bean soup, and table for one sg wordpress.

Attractions in 2010

These are the posts and pages that got the most views in 2010.

1

A (Tongue) Twist on a Classic August 2010
2 comments

2

Who is The Table for One? April 2010

3

For the Love of Annie July 2010
2 comments and 1 Like on WordPress.com,

4

Strictly Recipes (Index) July 2010
1 comment

5

A Table for More Than One May 2010
5 comments

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Jugaad Breakfast

My sister is working on an upcoming exhibition at the Center for Architecture in NYC called “Jugaad Urbanism: Resourceful Strategies for Indian Cities.”  Jugaad is a Hindi word which roughly translates in English to the concept of making do, or being resourceful.

I’ve been lounging about my house all day, trying to unpack and put away all the remaining boxes that have been lingering since my move in October. This morning, I was hungry for a satisfying breakfast that wouldn’t involve too much work.  Here entered jugaad.

Yesterday, I’d spent many hours making delicious vegetarian brandy and browned butter turnip greens as my contribution to the Christmas dinner I shared with my friend Alexis and her family.  The nine bunches I cooked turned into one large (8 quart) stockpot full of greens, of which about a half was leftover.

So, this morning I reached into the fridge and took stock of what I had: leftover white rice, copious amounts of greens, some leftover bacon (chopped and reheated with the greens), and eggs.  I fried those up – nice and easy – in plenty of butter, and rested them on top of the rice and greens, and voila!  There I had it.

I was hungry.  I was “making do”…  A quite formidable result, if I may say so myself.

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For a Blizzard-filled Day, a Hearty Bean Soup

Yesterday, we had a bona fide BLIZZARD in Minneapolis.

A side view of my front stoop. That's about 2.5 feet of snow that piled up against the door.

Somewhere - under 4-5 feet of snowdrifts - is my car. It took over an hour to shovel it - and my driveway/alley - clear enough so that I could leave.

This gentleman saved me. I'd been shoveling snow for well over an hour. The final 25% of work I had left took him only a few minutes.

Knowing snow was on its way, I had planned on making a weather-appropriate pureed bean soup with chard & poached eggs with a friend.  I’d been pining to make this recipe for well over a year, since Annie gave me this fabulous book about beans.  I’m lucky to have braved the market the night before.  Facing the mass of harried customers fearing the snowpocalypse was certainly not ideal, but it was possible.  Had I tried to pick up ingredients yesterday, I don’t think I would have made it.

I took no pictures during the process – I was cooking with a friend, who blogs here. But here’s a picture of the final product, as well as the recipe.

With homemade garlic croutons and a drizzle of extra-virgin olive oil, this was intensely satisfying.

Range Restaurant’s Cellini Bean Soup with Chard and Poached Eggs

(From Steve Sando and Vanessa Barrington’s Heirloom Beans: Great Recipes for Dips and Spreads, Soups and Stews, Salads and Salsas, and Much More from Rancho Gordo; Chronicle Books, San Francisco, 2008)

  • ½ pound Cellini beans, soaked (note: I used canellini beans instead, as my co-op didn’t have cellini beans)
  • 4 garlic cloves
  • 1 bunch green chard
  • Salt
  • 6 slices day old hearty bread, cut from a large loaf, crusts removed
  • 1/3 cup plus 4 T extra-virgin olive oil
  • Freshly ground pepper
  • 2 T white vinegar
  • 1 egg per person you are serving

Put the beans and their soaking water in a stockpot and add cold water if need to cover the beans by 1 inch.  Put the garlic on a piece of cheesecloth, gather the corners, and tie the bundle securely.  Add to the pot.

Put the pot over medium-high heat and bring to a simmer.  Reduce the heat to low and slowly cook the beans, uncovered, until tender, 1 to 1.5 hours.  Add water to the pot as necessary to keep the beans submerged.  Gently stir the beans once or twice to prevent them from sticking to the bottom of the pot.

Meanwhile, bring a large saucepan of water to a boil.  Remove the chard leaves from inner stems, reserving the stems, and tear the leaves into 1- to 2-inch pieces.  Trim the tough outer edges and base of the stems.  Slice the stems on the diagonal into thin matchsticks.  Generously salt the boiling water.  Add the chard leaves and cook until tender, 2 to 3 minutes.  Remove with a slotted spoon and transfer to a colander to drain.  Repeat with the chard stems.  When the chard is cool enough to handle, squeeze gently to remove excess water.  Set aside.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.  Tear the bread into small pieces and put in a medium bowl.  While tossing, drizzle the bread with 2 tablespoons of the olive oil and season with salt and pepper.  Put the bread on a baking sheet in a single layer and toast until very crisp and golden brown, 25 to 30 minutes.  Let the bread cool on the pan.  Crumble the toasted bread if you want smaller pieces.

When the beans are tender, season them with salt and pepper.  Remove the cheesecloth bundle from the pot, unwrap and remove the garlic cloves.  Ladle out about half the beans with their broth and put in a blender.  Add the garlic cloves and the 1/3 cup olive oil.  Puree until smooth.  If necessary, blend the hot soup in small batches as it can splatter and burn you.  Adjust the liquid remaining in the pot if necessary.  For a thinner soup, leave most or all the liquid in the pot; for a thicker soup, remove some liquid.  Add the pureed beans to the pot and set over medium heat.   Add the chard and chard stems.  Taste and adjust the seasonings.  Keep warm.

Fill a medium saucepan with cold water and salt the water.  Heat the water over medium heat.  Break each egg into a cup.  When the water is barely simmering, add the vinegar.  Slide the eggs, one at a time, into the water, trying to keep the eggs as compact as possible.  Cook the eggs until the whites are set and the yolks are still soft, 2 to 3 minutes.  Using a slotted spoon, remove each poached egg from the water and place it in the middle of a warmed soup bowl.  Carefully ladle the soup around the eggs so the yolks stay intact.  Sprinkle the soup with the bread, drizzle the remaining 2 tablespoons olive oil and season with pepper.

In the meantime, for all its inclement weather, this remains true.

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Procrastinating

It’s finals time again, and no wonder I’m back into posting a few things here and there. Cooking takes my mind off the less pleasurable tasks at hand (data analysis, paper writing, group presentations).

I had some leftover vegetables after Thanksgiving, as well as a desire to eat something rather meatless (after much meat intake), so I threw together a quick Penne with Mushrooms and Haricots Verts in White Wine Sauce last night.

Here’s a general guideline on what I used – my measurements were imprecise on most of the liquids, but pretty precise on everything else.

  • 1/2 lb whole wheat penne
  • 1/2 lb haricots verts (skinny, French-style green beans), cut in half
  • 1/2 lb cremini (“baby bella”) mushrooms
  • 3 tablespoons butter
  • 2 shallots, sliced thinly
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced finely
  • 2-3 sprigs fresh rosemary, chopped coarsely
  • 1 teaspoon lemon zest
  • 2 tablespoons flour
  • 1/4 cup heavy whipping cream
  • 1/4 cup white wine
  • 1/2-3/4 cup stock (I used chicken, you could use vegetable, or even better, mushroom)
  • ~1/4 cup parmesan cheese, grated finely, more to taste

Fill a large stockpot with cold water.  Add a generous amount of salt.  Pasta water should be about as salty as sea water.  Trust me, it sounds excessive, but your pasta will turn out much better.  As you bring the salted water to a boil, begin prepping and assembling your other ingredients.

That is: cut the haricots verts in half, slice the mushrooms, slice the shallots, mince the garlic, chop the rosemary, and zest the lemon.  Measure out two tablespoons of flour and put them in a small bowl.

Melt the butter in a large sautee pan, over medium high heat.  Add the haricots verts, mushroom and shallots.  Stir until all the vegetables are coated with the melted butter.  Cook uncovered for about 3-4 minutes.  Sprinkle the flour over the vegetables and stir to coat them all evenly.  Cook for 2-3 minutes until the flour begins to turn a very light brown.  Add the garlic and rosemary, stir to incorporate, and cover for about 5 minutes.

Hopefully, your pasta water should be at a raging boil sometime soon here.  Add the penne and cook til al dente.   (For my whole wheat penne, this was a full 13 minutes, despite the fact that the package said 10-12 for al dente.)

Back to the sauce!  Uncover the pan.  Add the cream and stir.  Add the wine, and stir.  Look at the consistency and decide how much stock you want to use to thin it out.  It’s a matter of personal taste here.  Start small (about 1/4 cup) and increase as you wish.  Keep in mind that the parmesan will help thicken your sauce again.

Once the pasta has reached your desired level of doneness, drain it and return it to the pot, adding a tiny bit of olive oil.  (NOTE: this practice is highly debated in cooking spheres: some people abhor adding oil, saying that it reduces the pasta’s ability to stick to sauce, or vice versa…  I’m flexible and not that stuck up…  Sometimes I’m a purist, and drain the pasta and lay it out on a cookie sheet in one layer, to stop the cooking without dousing it with water.  Then I’ll add it back to the sauce to reheat it before serving.  Other times when I know I’ll be eating the pasta very quickly after I cook it, like last night, I say screw it, and just add oil to the pasta in the very pot I cooked it in…  And guess what?  It turns out just fine!)

Go back to your sauce.  Add the parmesan and stir to melt all the cheese.  In a mixing bowl, combine the amount of pasta you plan to eat with the amount of this delicious sauce you want to devour.  Mix thoroughly and then dish the well-coated pasta into your serving dish.  Garnish with more parmesan, a sprig of rosemary and a bit of lemon zest – but only if you want to be fancy!

Bon appetit!

(Note re photos: capers appear in the first picture…  I planned on using them, but forgot.  They’d be tasty, but I think the dish has enough flavors as it is…)

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Giving Thanks

Rosi came for Thanksgiving, and as per our usual style, we planned, cooked and enjoyed an extravagant meal.  She spoiled me in general, decidedly announcing she would be cooking me a belated birthday meal on Wednesday night of roasted golden beet soup, arugula salad with roasted sweet potatoes and a warm butter shallot vinaigrette, and homemade ricotta gnocchi with browned butter and fried sage.  I didn’t even feign resistance.

When is a visit from a family member of mine NOT about food?  I don’t know – it hasn’t happened yet.  In addition to everything we cooked, we enjoyed our fair share of food out on the town.  We had excellent Mexican food on two occasions: at Taqueria Los Ocampo (huarachazo with carnitas and tacos al pastor) and La Loma (chiles rellenos con queso and tamal oaxaqueno).  Friday night we went out to Broder’s Pasta Bar, at the suggestion of many friends.  I almost needed a private room when I tasted Rosi’s dish: the tagliarini di Locanda del Lupo (housemade pasta with prosciutto di Parma, truffle pesto & cream ~ the house specialty of Locanda del Lupo in Soragna, Italy).  It was succulent, comforting decadence on a fork!  My dish was also extraordinarily satisfying, in an entirely different way.  I had the pappardelle con agnello e melanzane (housemade pasta with lamb & eggplant ragu, goat cheese, kalamata olives & fresh herbs).  Where the beauty of Rosi’s dish was its minimalism, mine shone for the expert and complex combination of flavors.

So, yes, back to our creations.  Here is our menu – created mostly by Rosi, but revised a bit by me.  I may post recipes later, but for the time being, photos and a menu will have to suffice!

Rachel and Rosi’s Thanksgiving Dinner

November 25, 2010

_____

Puree of White Bean Soup

With Garlic Croutons, Crispy Pancetta and Spicy Caper Vinaigrette

_____

Pan-fried Panko Cod Cakes

With Butter Lettuce and Citrus Tartar Sauce

______

Roast Long Island Duck

With Pan Gravy

Potatoes Sarladaises

In Duck Fat with Fresh Herbs

Sautéed Green Beans

With Shallots

______

Pear Tart

With Vanilla Bean Custard


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Whirlwind

That wee kitchen of mine is quite nearly a thing of the past.  I’m in the process of moving again – hopefully for the last time here in Minneapolis!  The new place I’ll call home has a kitchen that puts to shame anything I’ve previously defined as a kitchen…  Ok, that’s a bit extreme.  Clearly, if I was able to make magic happen in the wee kitchen of my latest abode, I can make it happen anywhere.  But sometimes an upgrade on counter space is called for!  And a five-burner gas stove with a convection oven, and a top-of-the-line dishwasher, and a huge refrigerator with a freezer on the bottom, and an insinkerator, and a huge center island with a “nosh pit”, and poured concrete counters, and Brazilian cherry floors, and custom-made maple cabinets, and a wall that’s framed and ready to go for an extension into a deck… well you know, they’re pretty nice too.

I am relishing every bit of the change, from the simple increase in cabinet and counter space, to all the incredibly luxurious appliances.  As soon as I’m settled, there will be detailed photo documentation of the new space… and a new food post!

Here’s to great things ahead!

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