Many weeks ago, around the time of our last snowfall, I made a batch of bright, happy lemon curd. It was a chilly evening, but the sky was a lovely shade of blue dappled with streaky silver clouds, and the setting sun shone through the windows of our house at just the right angle. On our table sat a bowl full of Meyer lemons, so vibrant in color that they were closer to the shade of a tangerine than the typical pale, lemony yellow. Snow was forecast for the coming days, but it didn’t seem possible when you looked across the room at those orange globes streaked with the sun’s last rays.
The lemon curd was an effort to preserve some of that sunshine, to bottle it up and stash it away on a shelf in our fridge, ready and waiting for the gloomiest of days. 36 hours later, the snow started to fall...and fall and fall. Plump, wet flakes spiraling quickly and quietly from an endlessly gray sky, eventually coating the ground with a heavy, 15-inch blanket of white. After a quick run to the store for groceries and some DVDs, Brian and I settled in for the storm. Out came the lemon curd, with all of its promise of warmer days, ready to spread over almond scones just pulled from the oven. It continued to make appearances over the next week, on all manner of baked goods and even swirled into a bit of Greek yogurt, topped with thawed blackberries leftover from last Summer’s harvest.
Recently, we've had a few rainy, gray days here in Charlottesville. I haven't minded so much, really. The constant thrum of tiny drops hitting metal gutters has been quite soothing, and the misty air feels nice on skin dried from over-usage of our heater these last few months. The temperature has been fairly warm with highs in the 50's, leaving me thankful that it's been rain falling from the sky rather than sleet or snow. I can handle slipping on boots and a light waterproof jacket to dash outside to the car, rather than boots and coat and scarf and hat and gloves. That gets a little old.
I did find myself craving sunshine yesterday afternoon though, and for some reason convinced myself that there must be some of this lemon curd still stashed away at the back of the refrigerator. After much rummaging and removing and rearranging I disappointedly concluded that, in fact, there was no remaining curd to be found. It was a silly thought, anyway, because any that was left would surely have been spoiled after weeks in a forgotten corner of the fridge. But still, I really, really wanted this curd.
And so I jumped onto Bella Eats to track down the recipe, going back through the last few weeks of posts to find the one where I’d shared it with you. And I realized, I never did! How silly of me, when Meyer lemons have been at their peak, when their deep golden flesh calls to you from across the produce department, begging you to take them home so that they can grace your fruit bowl with their beauty. Not that you need an excuse to purchase them, but if you’re looking for one, this is it.
Now go, hurry to the store, buy a bag of plump Meyer lemons before they disappear until next Winter, and make a pot of this lemon curd. We’ve got rainy Spring days ahead, and everybody can use a little sunshine in their fridge.
from Gourmet, December 2003
3/4 cup fresh lemon juice
1 tbsp finely grated fresh lemon zest
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1 stick (1/2 cup) unsalted butter, cut into bits
2 tbsp cornstarch
1/2 tsp salt
4 large egg yolks
Simmer lemon juice, zest, sugar, butter, cornstarch and salt in a 2-quart heavy saucepan over moderately high heat, whisking constantly for 1 minute.
Lightly beat eggs in a small bowl, then add 1/4 cup of lemon mixture, whisking constantly. Add yolk mixture to remaining lemon mixture on stovetop, then reduce heat to low and cook, whisking constantly, until curd is thick enough to hold marks of whisk, about 2 minutes.
Transfer to a bowl and cover surface with plastic wrap. Chill.
The almond scones weren't quite right yet, so I'll share the recipe once I've tweaked it a bit more. In the meantime, if you're craving scones, these citrus scones with cranberries and ginger are quite delicious this time of year...
I try to keep things pretty simple around here. Its not too difficult, since Bella Eats truly is a reflection of mine and Brian’s life. We both work full 40-50 hour weeks, getting home around 6:30 each evening ready for a glass of wine and a quick, delicious meal. By the time we change out of our work clothes, play with the pups and perform a little garden maintenance, its nearly 7:00 and the sun is starting to sink behind the trees. To avoid eating at ridiculously late hours (which does still happen on occasion) we must keep our weekly dinners as uncomplicated as possible.
I take pride in the fact that we don’t keep a lot of pre-packaged food in our house. If you open our freezer you’ll find some vegetables, a TON of fruit (blackberries from our garden and peach slices from the local orchard), some veggie scraps and a pork shoulder bone waiting to be made into broth, homemade everything bagels, a few varieties of muffins and a loan box of Kashi 7-Grain Waffles (a vice - I love them). What you won’t find are Healthy Choice, Lean Cuisine or Skillet Sensations dinners. I firmly believe that everybody has time to make a quick, healthy and delicious meal for themselves and their family, if you just keep your fridge and pantry stocked with some key items. I won’t list those items in this post (are you even interested?!?) but I will give you links to a few of the quick, simple meals we’ve made in the past:
Vegetable Fried RiceTrio of Salads and Whole Wheat FlatbreadPasta with Sausage and GreensCrockpot MinestroneChicken TostadasRaw Kale Salad with Roasted Vegetables
This simple approach to evening meals extends to lunch as well. On most days, Brian and I will come home to eat. We are lucky enough to live just 2.5 miles from the office where we work (yes, together!) and enjoy the afternoon break from our computers almost as much as our dogs enjoy being let out for some mid-day fetch. Sometimes we’ll have leftovers from the night before, but more often we’ll make ham sandwiches or simple PB + J’s with our plethora of jam. Lunch at home is relaxing and much less expensive than anything we could purchase from the many restaurants downtown.
Lately, my lunch of choice has been tomato and hummus sandwiches served on rustic bread, occasionally with a slice of high-quality ham from Double H Farm or some cured meat from Feast. But really, all you need is the good bread, fresh summer tomatoes and homemade hummus to make a very satisfying sandwich. This is special hummus though, blended with mustard flavored by spicy chipotle peppers. The mustard I used is a Saucy Mama product, and I think it has been our absolute favorite of all the condiments sent to us for the recipe contest I am participating in. We’re almost out, and will definitely be purchasing more when it is available in our area. I love that it still holds the tanginess of the classic yellow spread, but adds a spice very unlike the creole and dijon mustards we typically have on our refrigerator door.
Maybe I shouldn’t call this condiment hummus, since it does not contain any tahini. Perhaps “chickpea spread” is more appropriate. No matter what you call it, I hope you’ll make it. Its simple, quick, healthy - and more than likely you've got all of the ingredients on hand. If you try other mustards, please let me know how they turn out. I’ve been pretty hooked on this one and haven’t been able to stray...
Chipotle Mustard Hummus
1 (15oz) can of garbonzo beans, drained and rinsed
Place garbonzo beans, mustard and lemon juice in the small bowl of a food processor. Pulse a few times to chop garbonzo beans. Scrape down sides of bowl. Turn processor on and slowly add olive oil while continuing to process. Turn off processor and scrape down sides of bowl. Process again, continuously, for 2-3 minutes until you have a smooth, creamy consistency.
Serve on tomato sandwiches or enjoy alone with crackers.
Also, I have two more bottles of Saucy Mama Lime Chipotle Marinade to give away! To my two readers who won the last give-away, your sauce is coming. I promise. For some reason I’ve had a difficult time making it to the post office lately... If you are interested in trying out this great sauce, leave a comment before my next post.
I can’t believe I’ve waited so long to talk about jam this summer! Here it is, mid-August, the blackberries are nearing the end of another extremely productive season and I am just now sharing these recipes with you. It seems that our bush quadrupled in size from last year, and the bounty we’ve received reflects that growth. I am giddy thinking of next year’s harvest, since the new growth taking over our fence and gate will bear what surely must be another quadrupling of this year’s numbers. Oh, the possibilities.
I must admit, I’m somewhat happy to see this blackberry season come to an end. In just a couple of weeks I’ll be able to cut back all of this year’s fruited wood, and will have the space needed to train the new growth and reclaim our entrance to the garden. Blackberries bear fruit on the previous year’s growth, so as the new arms have reached out into any space they could creep to, we’ve been powerless to do anything about them. I can’t bear the thought of cutting any of them back, for fear of what that would do to next year’s harvest, but I will be very grateful to not have to play limbo to pass through the garden gate.
I’ve actually shared this recipe with you before, in the springtime when Florida strawberries hit Virginia stores and I couldn’t help buying multiple quarts. Molly’s jam recipe is really the only one you need, as it can be modified to use any variety of fruit available at any time of the year. And modify we have, for Brian and I have been jam-making machines this last month. We wanted to preserve as much of the summertime bounty as we could, and since our blackberry bush has produced approximately two dozen quarts of deep purple berries in just 30-days time, jam seemed like an obvious solution. We’ve also frozen half a dozen quarts for use through the fall and winter (its doubtful they’ll make it to spring), made a couple of pastries and plenty of smoothies.
But our favorite use of our overabundance of the sweet-tart fruit has been jam. So far we’ve tried three different varieties with our blackberries, and we have a few more in mind to try out this weekend. The peaches we’ve been picking have come in handy too, providing a natural sweetness that allows us to cut the sugar used in the original recipe. We’ve been eating jam on biscuits, waffles, pancakes, almond butter sandwiches and even pork tenderloin as a delicious glaze. We have jars upon jars stored up in our pantry, waiting to be given to friends or consumed by us over the next 11 months.
In fact, one lucky reader will receive a 6oz jar of Bella EatsJam to enjoy! Just leave a comment on this post telling me your favorite jam/preserves/jelly flavor. Who knows, maybe you’ll see your flavor featured after our next experimentation! I’ll announce the winner on my next post, so comment away until then.
Blackberry Jam with Peaches or Plumsadapted from Molly Wizenburg via Epicurious
8oz fresh blackberries
2 pounds fresh plums or peaches, peeled and chopped
1-1/2 to 2 cups sugar, depending on sweetness of peaches / plums
2 tbsp lemon juice
To peel peaches and plums, bring a large pot of water to boil. Slice a large "X" into the bottom of each piece of fruit. Drop the fruit, 3-4 at a time into the boiling water. Let boil for 45 seconds and remove with a slotted spoon to a large bowl filled with ice water. When fruit is cool (about 1 minute) remove to a cutting board and peel skin, which should pull apart from the fruit easily. Chop fruit into 1/2-inch dice.
Toss blackberries with peaches or plums in medium-size bowl. Add sugar and lemon juice and toss to coat. Let sit for 2 hours, stirring occasionally.
Prepare canning jars as per canning instructions (see recipe above or instructions for your canning equipment).
Transfer fruit mixture to a 4-quart saucepan and bring to a boil over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally. Crush the fruit with a potato masher and let continue to bubble until it thickens, about 20 minutes. Dip a metal spoon into the jam and then hold it over the pot, letting it drip for a few moments to cool. Run your finger down the back of the spoon, through the mixture. If your finger leaves a clear path on the back of the spoon, the jam has cooked long enough. If not, keep cooking and test every 5 minutes until you get a clear path.
Spoon jam into prepared jars and process according to canning instructions (see recipe above or instructions for your canning equipment).
Peach Jam with a Hint of Blackberry(this is the jam pictured in the images above. the blackberry jam with peaches or plums is darker in color)
8oz fresh blackberries
2-1/2 pounds fresh peaches, peeled and chopped
1-1/4 cups sugar, divided
2 tbsp lemon juice, divided
Use the same method as above, except separate the blackberries and peaches into two separate bowls. Toss the peaches with 1 tbsp lemon juice and 3/4 cup sugar. Toss the blackberries with 1 tbsp lemon juice and 1/2 cup sugar. After two hours, puree' blackberries in a food processor or blender, then strain to remove seeds and pulp. Stir blackberry puree' into peaches and continue with step #4.
And, if you're not sure what to do with the 24-ish ounces of jam the recipes above produce, make this cake [pictured above], using the jam instead of the filling. Or, give jars out to your friends - they'll love it, I promise.
Other Bella Terra posts this season:
Bella Terra: PreparationBella Terra: ChivesBella Terra: HerbsBella Terra: Sugar SnapsBella Terra: Red BeetsBella Terra: KaleBella Terra: Cucumbers
This post has been clanging around in my drafts folder for months now, as is evidenced by the breakfast photo at the bottom (in our house we are fully into smoothie-mode for the morning meal since Summer has clearly arrived in Virginia...). Its sad really, because it deserves better than that. Making almond butter at home is so simple that I just wasn't sure if I should bother with posting it, and then decided that "too simple" is a really silly reason to not share a perfectly delicious recipe with my readers. Aren't we all searching for simple recipes? Especially for simple recipes that will save us some money at the grocery store?
A few months back, one of my favorite healthy lifestyle bloggers, Heather, started making her own nut butters to save money. It seemed like a perfectly reasonable idea and she made it seem so simple that I just had to try it. I'd been intrigued by many of the flavored almond butters on the market for months, but it is so expensive that I can only bring myself to buy one jar at a time and must use every last bit before purchasing another, so I hadn't been able to try many of them. Now, it doesn't take me too long to finish a jar since I have a tablespoon or two of the creamy spread nearly every day, but that doesn't change the fact that it is expensive and I can make it at home for less, with endless possibilities of flavor variations.
I made this almond butter in my KitchenAid food processor. At first I dumped the almonds into the smaller of the two processor bowls, with the smaller blades. After 10-12 minutes of whirring I still had finely ground almonds instead of the creamy butter that Heather promised would form after just a few minutes. Frustrated, I dumped all of the ingredients into the larger bowl with the larger blades, and within 2-3 minutes had the creamy consistency I was looking for. So, if you have a larger food processor (mine has a 12-cup capacity but I don't think it would need to be quite that big) it would be very helpful. But you may still get the consistency you're looking for with a smaller processor and additional time.
There are so many wonderful variations to this recipe (can I call it that if there are only three ingredients?) and I would love to hear about any favorites you all have tried. So, please leave a comment if you've made any nut butters of your own!
Cinnamon Vanilla Almond Buttermakes about 8 ounces
2 cups whole, unsalted almonds
1 tbsp vanilla extract
1 tbsp ground cinnamon
Place almonds in food processor and process until fine.
One of the things I miss about living in Florida is the extended growing season for fruits and veggies. Our local farmer's market starts up in a couple of weeks (so excited), but it will be at least a month after that before we start seeing any fresh local fruit. Right now, in Florida, strawberries are abundant and I miss being able to stop at a farm stand to pick up a flat for several months out of the year. We do grow strawberries here in Virginia (we even have a few plants in our garden!) but the growing season is limited to about 4 weeks starting in mid-May. During that time I make it a point to visit the closest pick-your-own patch at least twice, coming home after each trip with a giant flat of berries, a slight sunburn and a full belly.
We manage to consume most of the berries we come home with while they are still fresh, but towards the end of the season I'll make a final trip to the patch to pick the few remaining berries that haven't been zapped by June's high temperatures, just to freeze for smoothies later in the summer. Strawberries you've picked and frozen yourself bear no comparison to those you buy in the freezer section of your local grocery and I will surely be freezing some again this year. But I've also decided on another method of preservation for this May (JAM!!!), or maybe its merely an excuse to buy even more at the patch. Because really, nothing makes me much happier than loading up a cardboard box with mounds of freshly picked berries.
In the meantime I'll be making do with the fresh Florida strawberries I'm finding at Whole Foods, which are absolutely delicious even if they do lack the nostalgia that comes with picking them yourself. Canning is a new process for me, and I want to be sure to get some practice in before facing the challenge of preserving enough berries to make my fresh Virginia strawberry nostalgia last me from June 2009 until the following May. Luckily I remembered reading a Molly Wizenburg article in last June's Bon Appetit that outlined the process quite precisely, and was able to adapt her recipe to use strawberries and their favorite partner, rhubarb.
The result was delicious, although I might consider reducing the sugar in my next batch so that the tartness of the rhubarb shines through a bit more. This recipe can be adapted to use an endless variety of fruit, and I plan on experimenting with as many as I can come summertime.
Strawberry Rhubarb Jambasic jam recipe from Orangette via Bon Appetit
24oz fresh strawberries, washed and sliced
1-1/2 lbs rhubarb (about 5 stalks), sliced into 1/2" chunks
2 cups of sugar
2 tbsp lemon juice
Place sliced strawberries and rhubarb in a large bowl with sugar and lemon juice. Mix to coat and let sit for 2 hours, stirring occasionally.
Place 2 saucers in freezer.
Transfer fruit mixture to large saucepan and bring to boil over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally. Use a hand-held mixer or immersion blender to puree the fruit as best you can. Reduce heat to medium and boil gently until mixture begins to thicken, stirring often, about 18 minutes.
Remove saucepan from heat to test jam for gelling point. Drop 1 teaspoonful jam on chilled saucer and return to freezer 1 minute. Remove saucer and push edge of jam with fingertip. If jam has properly gelled, surface will gently wrinkle. If not, return saucepan to heat and cook jam a few minutes longer; repeat test.
Ladle hot jam into jars. Allow to cool and refrigerate for up to 2 weeks.*
* If you'd like to preserve the jam for longer, follow Molly's method here. The jam will keep for months, unopened in the pantry, if you follow a proper canning method. Then, you can send a jar to friends and make them very, very happy.
Thank you all for the sweet Happy Birthday messages! I had a fabulous day, or weekend actually, filled with cake (friday, saturday AND today!), dinner out, brunch in and lots of great company. I could not have wished for more, and your messages have put it over the top. Thank you!!!In the Blog World:Roseis giving away one of those fantastic Quaker robe and slipper sets! The deadline is midnight tonight, so hurry up! And after you enter, stick around to read more of Rose's wonderful blog and fabulous oatmeal stories...she is such a creative lady!