Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Sweet: Lemon Tart

Every year I try something new for the Thanksgiving holiday. You know, to keep myself sharp and on edge. Maybe even show off a little. But this year all the knives in Chez Noonie's mental toolbox were a little dull, and my plans went awry.

I had planned for a fabulous, complicated 'Lemon Chocolate Ganache Tart', from one of my favorite cookbooks of all time, Luscious Lemon Desserts by Lori Longbotham. I know, a lot of alliteration, but worth the tongue twisting. I have been using this book for years, as it is predicated on two of my favorite things in the world: dessert and lemons. The former speaks for itself. The latter, well just take a look at the Chez Noonie citrus decor and you kind of get the picture.

Lemons are a great choice for Thanksgiving, when it is hard to find fresh fruit and people are finishing a heavy, generally somewhat bland meal. The occasion calls for something bright and fresh to cleanse the palate and lift the spirit. Unfortunately for me, the recipe I wanted to use was a bit complicated, involved rolling out dough (which I had over processed - oops), needed to be executed over several one hour increments, and by the time I realized it was not happening, I was in great need of a hug sprinkled with valium.

Anyway, spilt milk aside I still needed a desert for the holiday. And then I remembered that Ms. Longbothom includes a recipe entitled 'The Perfect Lemon Tart'. Now this is a stand by; I bring to occasions, serve it for guests at home, and bake it when my husband needs a quick pick me up. It is easy to make, looks gorgeous, and the taste is over the top lemony and delicious. And fortunately, I had all the ingredients on hand. So this year, an old stand by is about to become a new tradition, as I have decided to literally make the best of things and celebrate in comfortable style.

Happy Thanksgiving everyone. Enjoy every bite.

1/2 cup unsalted butter
2 tbsp finely grated lemon zest
1 3/4 cups all purpose flour
1 1/4 cups granulated sugar
2 pinches of salt
6 large eggs
1 cup fresh lemon juice
1/2 cup heavy cream
Confectioners sugar for dusting

  1. Position a rack in the middle of the oven and preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Have ready an 11-inch tart pan with a removable bottom.
  2. Melt butter in saucepan over medium heat. Ad 1 tbsp of the zest and let stand for five minutes.
  3. Whisk together flour, 1/4 cup of sugar, and a pinch of salt in a large bowl. Finely stream in the butter mixture and mix with a fork until it comes together. Transfer mixture to the tart pan and press it in with your fingers until evenly distributed. Bake for 20 minutes or until crust is light golden brown.
  4. Process the remaining sugar and zest in a food processor until zest is finely ground.
  5. Whisk together the eggs, sugar mixture, lemon juice, and another pinch of salt in a separate bowl.
  6. Beat cream with a mixer on medium-high until soft peaks form. Fold into egg mixture gently, until just blended.
  7. Place a baking sheet in the oven Place tart pan on top and pour the filling in the still warm crust. Bake 20 - 30 minutes, until the filling is just set in the center. Remove and cool on a rack.
  8. When cooled and just before serving, sift confectioners sugar on top and slice into wedges to serve.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Savory: Braised Onions

Pearl onions are one of those things you either love or hate - not a lot of middle ground here. I personally do not prefer them, but my husband does and I do prefer him. So come Autumn, when they are at their most fresh and delicious peak, I always pick out a few bags and bring them home with me.

Now, the tricky part about pearl onions is prepping them. Teeny tiny onions with thin papery skins can make one bitchy chef. I advise buying them fresh and already peeled or purchasing the frozen brands which are also pre-peeled. If not, swallow a valium and have at it - plan on adding an extra 20 - 30 minutes to cooking time. Basically you cut an 'x' in each onion, blanch them for 1 minute, let them cool, and peel away.

This recipe comes from the back of the Trader Joe's fresh peeled onions I picked up this week. It is a quick recipe, and despite my prejudice, kind of tasty. Enjoy every bite.

2 tbsp olive oil
6 oz pearl onions, peeled
1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
1 - 1 and 1/2 cups vegetable or chicken broth (I used vegetable)
Salt and pepper to taste
1 pat of butter
Sprig of fresh thyme

  1. Place oil in medium skillet and heat on medium. Add onions and saute until just brown, approximately 10 minutes.
  2. Add vinegar and continue to saute until sauce becomes a rich brown.
  3. Add broth to cover the onions halfway. Stir to incorporate. Bring to a simmer.
  4. Partly cover pan and lower heat. Continue to simmer and braise for 15 - 20 minutes.
  5. Add salt and pepper to taste.
  6. Add butter and thyme; stir until incorporated. Remove from heat and serve.