Prelude to a Lemon Tart
I have been stalling here, not sure where to begin or what exactly to write about, and meanwhile, I started cooking professionally again–nothing like throwing myself in the frying pan after a decade hiatus on the line. Even so, with the weather shifting between winter and spring on any given day, I haven’t quite known where to lay my allegiances–do I fit in a new post or a swim, is it a pot of beans kind of day or do I branch out and try something new, like this Palestinian Chicken dish (which I made, and is delicious) from food writer, Joan Nathan–that kind of thing.
None of this internal wrestling, takes away that I am hungry for warmer days, the kind that send me careening towards the sea, allow longer afternoons at places like Muir Beach or Big Sur; for gathering wild strawberries and fennel, and all the other good things that herald spring, like artichokes, at their peak now through May.
But I’m not complaining, as an artist friend, recently implied, giving me pause. He then offered to buy me a glass of wine (it was lunch time, after all), and later invited me to his studio. It was there, immersed in fat strokes of paint, memory, and bold color that I became a happier person, right then. It is painting that I need in my life, I thought, and what am I going to do about it?
At the moment, painting is about what’s on the plate, layering a recital of colors and new flavors to taste. I’m smitten with Suzanne Goin, acclaimed chef of Lucques in LA, who creates such goregeous food, and continue to turn to her book Sunday Suppers (2005) for inspiration.
From my own kitchen, I have a spread of recipes forthcoming in a food glossy (August)–imagine an al fresco meal–which gives me something else to boast about (not really) besides my kids who despite their not always so certain mom, seem to be holding their own, each finding their own rhythm and way in life.
Today, it’s a beautiful thing to see them blossom, to more than occasionally share a meal with them around our tired, but familiar table, to still get a response of sure, when asked to play a game of dominoes, to make my daughter a lemon tart because I can. Mostly, it’s a joy to find our way together, to be rooting for them as they develop their voice, to have them close by, as I broaden mine.
Meyer Lemon Tart (from My Nepenthe)
A lemony custard tart is always a crowd pleaser, and looks beautiful on display. It is often made around the holidays at Nepenthe restaurant, and is one of my most favorite desserts to make at home. The sweet dough crust is easy, and simply pressed into the pan.
Ma k e s 1 ( 8 o r 9 – i n c h ) ta r t, s e r v i n g 8 t o 1 0
1/2 cup softened butter
4 tablespoons confectioners’ sugar
1 cup flour
5 or 6 Meyer lemons (about 1 cup juice)
3 eggs plus 3 egg yolks
7/8 cup sugar, or to taste
4 tablespoons butter
To make the dough, beat the butter with the sugar, salt, and flour until just combined. Press the dough evenly into a 9-inc h round fluted tart pan. You can make the dough up to 4 days ahead; keep it in the refrigerator until ready to use. Freeze the prepared tart shell for at least 30 minutes before baking.
Meanwhile, make the lemon curd. Zest half the lemons (setting the zest aside), then extract the juice from all the lemons to make about 1 cup. In a medium nonreactive, heatproof bowl, whisk the eggs and sugar until well combined, then whisk in the lemon juice.
Place the bowl over a gently simmering pot of water, and whisk continuously until it begins to thicken, about 5 minutes. Whisk in the butter in pieces; cook, stirring frequently, until the curd coats the back of the spoon, another 5 minutes or so. This is a good time to taste and adjust the sweetness, as needed.
Strain the curd into a separate bowl, then whisk in the zest. Press a piece of plastic wrap on the surface while cooling. You can make the curd up to 2 days ahead as well; refrigerate the curd until needed.
Preheat the oven to 375F.
Bake the tart shell for 20 to 25 minutes until golden brown. Cool slightly, then spoon the lemon curd into the shell, spreading evenly with a spatula. Bake for 7 to 10 minutes, until just set but still slightly jiggly in the middle.
Serve chilled with a dollop of lightly whipped cream or with fresh berries.