Jenny is in perpetual search for easy, weeknight recipes to attempt to feed her family. When they balk, she just eats more.
The other day I arrived home from work to a rectangular package on my porch, its outer wrapping somewhat ripped, postmarked Los Angeles. I opened it to find a wooden box, which likely once housed a bottle of wine but now carried four Meyer lemons. There was a scribbled note inside -- “We miss you in Brentwood, love Jamie.”
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I smiled to myself, imagining my friend Jamie sitting in her backyard at dusk, inhaling the smell of lavender and sage as she watched the sky turn lavender behind her lemon tree, feeling slightly guilty for her citrus bounty, thinking “Who can I unload some of these lemons on? Oh yeah! Jennifer! Poor dear living in that land of $5 asparagus! She always loved my lemons.”
She then no doubt piled herself into her Prius – which happens to be covered in polka dots – and hastily deposited my lemons at the post office before running off to her kid’s school to yell at the headmaster about the fact that California elementary schools never seem to teach the American Revolution and why is that?
I allowed myself an hour to feel sad, imagining my old self driving a black Pontiac aimlessly along Santa Monica Blvd pondering what to eat for lunch instead of my current self who chases Senator Jim DeMint down a flight of stairs.
And then I got busy with this Lemon Tart with Olive Oil. Which, as it turns out, is a slightly modified version of this recipe from epicurious. I only discovered this after I made the tart, so I'll tell you what it was like following the modified version.
I will tell you that nancy d. has a creative way of looking at the world – one minute she is talking about a cup of this and a teaspoon of that, and then the next thing you know she’s dealing in ounces. No matter, you have a kitchen scale right?
Also, how much is the juice of three lemons in her mind? Let’s call it half a cup. And let me tell you, this interesting crust, really more cookie than pastry, is not getting pressed up the sides of anything. Prod it bit by bit until it spreads across your tart pan and say a small prayer.
She also never tells you quite how long to cook that curd -- which you should do in a heavy bottomed pot -- and so I became impatient when it did not thicken and tossed in a bit more corn starch. Big mistake. I never fully got out the smallest lumps, even when in stirred in my butter and the delicious olive oil that my friend Helene recently brought me from Italy.
Be patient people.
A few hours later, chilled tart in hand, I trotted off to Bethesda for dinner at M & A’s house, during which I explained that I probably was going to have to relocate soon because there are no left turn lanes in DC and I’d recently seen a grown man carrying his MetroCard around his neck. They patiently pressed their case for DC, explaining we would have a good bakery in Farragut Square any day now.
As M told us a story involving the Irish ambassador set in the wilds of rural Alaska, we dug into the tart -- which is basically a giant lemon bar, and quite tasty – and drank a bit more wine. My friends pretended not to see the lumps. Because that’s what great friends do, no matter where you happen to find them.
A New Way to Dinner, co-authored by Food52's founders Amanda Hesser and Merrill Stubbs, is an indispensable playbook for stress-free meal-planning (hint: cook foundational dishes on the weekend and mix and match ‘em through the week).