Friday, February 5, 2010

Orange You Glad It's Winter?

Book Photos 009
Photo Credit, Stronghold Photography

On Tuesday, the groundhog saw his shadow. According to the rather unscientific presumption, this means we're in for six more weeks of winter. Hooray!

I've already explained several of my reasons for loving the cold days of January. Well, this irrational adoration carries on to February. I'm not always a glass half full gal - I hate when supplies get low, whether they be chicken stock, my son's kefir, or wine - but for some reason, in the dark days of our Midwestern winter I focus on what I can eat, as opposed to what I can not.

These days, I'm rediscovering citrus. While the navel orange is the perennial fruit bowl staple, there are numerous other varieties that make their appearance at our grocery stores only in these cold months - a bright and sweet gift for these bitter days. Tangerines, tangelos, clementines, clementine-mandarins, pomelos, kumquats, a whole host of delightful and delectable little segmented fruits are at our disposal. I relish every last one.

These days, I've been starting my day with a freshly squeezed glass of grapefruit juice. My mother-in-law sent a whole box of pink grapefruit, which were only mine to enjoy. Even if he didn't take the medication that grapefruit wreaks havoc upon, Mike wouldn't touch the delightfully pink-fleshed softball. We don't even drink sauvignon blanc because of its grapefruity undertones. Witnessing this intense dislike, Thor's been loath to try them. This weekend we'll be serving the Israeli-grown clementine-mandarins in a spinach salad for Thor's birthday party. Blood oranges served as the piquant base for a delicious Moroccan salsa served on Coho salmon earlier this week.

Though my absolute favorite citrus is the one that really shouldn't be eaten out of hand. The Meyer lemon: an extraordinary marriage of orange and lemon with a intoxicating aroma, thin skin, and extraordinary flavor. I still have not met a dish that can not be improved by substituting Meyers for the standard lemon, whether it be lemonade or lemon chicken.

Each year, I make a big batch of lemon curd, which can be sandwiched between eclairs, filled into tart shells, and topped onto scones. A lovely dessert, perfect for Valentine's Day, pairs it with jam made from locally-grown blueberries frozen at the height of the summer season. For those of you who don't love Winter as I do, it will give you a whiff of things to come.

Lemon-Blueberry Tartlets in an Almond Crust

Lemon curd is a recipe that palpably demonstrates all eggs are not created equal. If you use truly farm-fresh eggs for this recipe, the color will be far more vivid. Also, farm-fresh eggs are not necessarily uniform in size. Accordingly, I’ve used weight as the measurement instead of a specified number of eggs. If you don’t have a scale, start with 12 egg yolks. If the curd does not thicken within 15 minutes, follow the instructions in the body of the recipe.

For 6 servings

1 ½ cups raw natural almonds
1 ½ sticks unsalted butter, cut into pieces
1/3 cup confectioners sugar
3 tablespoons beaten egg
1 ½ cup unbleached all-purpose flour
¾ cup whole wheat pasty flour
½ teaspoon vanilla extract
½ teaspoon kosher salt
4 cups fresh or frozen blueberries
6 tablespoons granulated sugar
12 large egg yolks or 7 ½ ounces egg yolks (see What Came First the Yolk or the White for suggested uses for the egg whites)
1 to 1 ¼ cups granulated sugar
1 cup lemon juice (approximately 6 lemons) or 1 cup Meyer lemon juice plus 2 tablespoons lemon juice
2 sticks unsalted butter, cut into tablespoons
½ teaspoons kosher salt
the zest of two lemons

Almond Crust: Preheat oven to 350°F. Finely chop the almonds in a food processor. Add remaining ingredients and process to combine. Divide the dough in half. For this recipe you will only need one half, the remaining half can be frozen for up to 6 months. Press one half of the dough either into the 9-inch pan or the 6 5-inch pans. The sides of the tart shell should be approximately ¼-inch thick. Bake tart shells for 30 minutes or until golden brown, shifting the position of the pan once for even browning.
Blueberry Filling: Combine the blueberries and sugar in a medium saucepan. Cook over medium heat stirring occasionally until the berries have burst and the filling is thickened – 15-20 minutes.
Lemon Curd: Whisk together the egg yolks with 1 cup sugar in a medium-size bowl. Combine the lemon juice, zest, butter and salt in a medium saucepan. Heat over medium-low heat until butter is melted. Pour half of the hot lemon-butter mixture over the yolk mixture while whisking constantly. Pour the warmed yolk mixture into the saucepan again while whisking constantly stopping only briefly to scrape the bowl. Cook over low heat, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon until thickened (approximately 12 minutes). The curd will look gelatinous and will coat the back of a spoon distinctly.

Book Photos 008
If the curd has not thickened after 15 minutes, you probably need more egg yolk. Whisk an egg yolk in a small bowl and add approximately ½ cup of the hot liquid, whisking constantly. Add back to the pan while whisking and cook until thickened. Taste the curd. If it seems too tart, add more sugar until it is to your taste. When thickened, pour through a fine mesh strainer into a heat-proof bowl and stir in lemon zest. Let cool.
Assembling the tart: Spread a thin layer of blueberry filling into the tart shells. Spoon 2 cups of the lemon curd on top of the blueberry filling and spread evenly.
Do-ahead notes: The tart dough can be made up to two weeks in advance and frozen. Defrost in the refrigerator and then continue with the directions above. If you have space in your freezer, you could also press the dough into the tart pans and freeze. Bake from a frozen state for 40 minutes. The blueberry filling will keep up to two weeks and the lemon curd five days in the refrigerator.

1 comment:

  1. yum! i make a blueberry sauce with lemon juice to go on pancakes. this sounds like that sauce, but with more fruit, custard and in a tart shell.


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