Meyer Lemon Tart – I’m in Love!

I hereby confess to an open fondness for fruit tarts. Free from the tyranny of top crust making and lower in calories by that very lack of an upper crust. They can be as fancy as you wish or humble and rustic when limited time is an issue. Full of ripe berries, nuts and caramel, of custard, of apples, pears or plums. Pretty much anything that can be pied can be tarted. In my house there is a running teasing argument as to pie or tart. I am of the tart persuasion and he is of the pie love affair. So he calls my tarts pies with great delight and I snicker at his silly ways. Either way it is a win win.  Tarts can be useful too when you have limited amounts of filling material; a 9 inch tart doesn’t take that much to fill it to an acceptable level. My old-fashioned 10 inch aluminum pie tins take more than twice that amount to be considered appropriately full. Don’t get me wrong; I adore pie in so many versions it could be considered an obsession but this post is all about the tart. 

This is a Meyer lemon masterpiece of a tart. I bought a bag of 6 Meyer lemons for less then $3 at Lidls and they were lovely looking. For your edification I will advise that a Meyer lemon is like a lemon but also like an orange; in fact, it is a species created from both, sort of. Actually, to be technical it is half mandarin orange (those sort of flat small tangerines) and half citron which is a genetic parent of the common lemon. Meyer lemons were introduced into the US in 1908 and they are sweeter than lemons, slightly deeper yellow and rounder than a lemon.  The juice is a tad darker and the skin is tasty enough to be extremely sought after by many chefs. Okay, enough on the ancestry of my beloved Meyer lemons. Just know that they are no common citrus and that  you can buy them in many grocery stores locally. Please do not attempt this tart with any sort of regular lemon; it must be made with Meyer lemons as the normal lemon’s white pith is way too bitter and even the juice isn’t sweet enough for this treat.

This tart uses every part of the lemon except the seeds. I make a lemon jam that is similar in this respect. So when I made this tart it did remind me of my lemon jam only more roasty yet zingy somehow and the crust’s flaky texture really amplified its charms. I made mine in a 9.5 ceramic tart pan. You could make it in a 9 inch one and make a hand pie or two out of the spare filling.  I saw the recipe on someone’s fb post and made a few changes and threw one together this past weekend since I already had the lemons and was intrigued by how it uses the whole fruit. Definitely a keeper of a tart. You could make it with a regular pie crust and regular flour in filling if you are not gf.  Enjoy!

unbaked filled tart; see how pale it is!

 Meyer Lemon Tart

Ingredients:

One GF tart shell; prebaked about 10 minutes at 375 degrees:

Crust:

1 c plus 2 Tbsp. brown rice flour mix (King Arthur basic gf blend)

2 Tbsp. sweet rice flour

1 Tbsp. granulated sugar

½ tsp xanthan gum

¼ tsp salt

6 Tbsp. cold butter cut into 6 chunks

1 lg egg

2 tsp fresh orange or lemon juice

Directions:

Mix dry crust ingredients in bowl of stand electric mixer.  Add butter and mix until crumbly and resembling coarse meal.  Add egg and lemon juice.  Mix briefly until it comes together into big chunks.  Shape into a ball with your hands. Put it on a crust sized piece of wax paper (14 x 14 inches more or less), flatten the crust ball some; put on top of it another piece of wax paper and chill it all in your fridge 10-15 minutes. Roll out and line a 9.5 tart shell. Prick surface with a form in many places to keep it from puffing up. Bake at 375 for 10 minutes. Let cool at least 10 min before filling.

Filling:

5 Meyer lemons

1 cup sugar plus 2 Tbsp. divided

1 medium to large egg and 1 egg yolk

A pinch of sea salt

2 Tbsp flour (I used my King Arthur Basic GF Mix)

8 Tbsp. butter melted and cooled for 5-10 minutes

Directions: cut up the lemons into halves, quarters then eighths, remove seeds. I got over 5 cups of chunks. Put all the filling ingredients into a large food mixer and pulse until it is a coarsely chopped yet cohesive filling. Just don’t completely puree the lemon chunks; you want a bit of size difference not a puree.  Pour into the tart shell and sprinkle with the 2 Tbsp of sugar. Then bake at 325 for 20 on the bottom shelf of your oven. Turn heat up to 350 and bake another 30 minutes. I think I could have left it in for a few more; the filling should darken a bit and crust will be nicely browned. The filling should be jiggly but will set as it stands. Chill for several hours and serve with whipped cream or vanilla ice cream. Or by itself. Enjoy!

Mom’s Beef Pie

I am feeling the need for comfort food, stews, meat pies, and thick soups. In that vein of wanting, I recently made a beef pie. This was my mom’s recipe and she made it exactly the same every time it was served but I didn’t have her exact recipe. I knew how it should taste and I reconstructed it to the best of my taste buds and skills. I did something a tiny bit crazy; I added carrots for flavor and color. Mom is gone, almost three months as of now. I am not sure but think she would have enjoyed my modern version complete with gluten free crust and carrot slices.

It has potatoes and onions in it plus the big carrot I cut into half rounds. The topping is a flaky pie crust. It is like a meat stew cooked on the stove top and put together with the crust and just baked long enough to make a perfectly browned and delicious top crust. I bought a big sirloin steak and cut it in one-inch strips and then into 1-inch cubes for uniform pieces of meat. You can buy precut stew meat if you like. I have to say I loved how it was more uniform when I cut the cubes myself. Better quality control in my opinion.

Mom’s Beef Pie

Ingredients

1 lb. top sirloin beef cut in 1-inch cubes

1/3 cup white rice flour (if making it for non-celiac just use all purpose flour)

1 Tsp. paprika

½ Tsp. sea salt

¼ Tsp. black pepper, freshly ground

1-2 Tbsp divided mild olive oil or other frying oil

1 large onion chopped coarsely

2 beef bullion cubes (Herb Ox are gf)

1.5 lbs. of russet potatoes cut into ¾ inch dice

1 cup of carrots; cut in ¼ inch half rounds

Directions: Mix the flour and spices on a plate or sheet of wax paper, roll the beef cubes in the flour blend until coated. Heat 1 Tbsp. oil in large frying pan. Add half the cubes spaced out so they will properly brown; turn as the side browns and remove once browned on 3 sides, brown rest of beef cubes same say; add more oil as necessary. Add back all cubes, add ¼ onion bits and enough water to reach the top of the cubes in a single layer. Add beef bullion cubes; cook 30 min on low so the mixture bubbles adding more water as it evaporates, do not let it run really low on water.

Meanwhile, peel and dice the potatoes, cut up a big carrot or 2 medium carrots. Put potatoes in salted cold water. After the beef has cooked in its broth for at least 15-20 minutes start the potatoes in their own saucepan covered with salted water and add the rest of the onion and the carrot pieces to the beef simmering in the pan.  The make the crust and refrigerate it for 5-10 minutes while you wait for the potatoes to be done.

Heat oven to 400 degrees. When potatoes are mostly done (use a fork to test) drain the potatoes, you should save the potato water for adding as needed to thin the gravy or for other cooking. Once the meat is tender and carrots close to cooked add the cooked potatoes to the mixture; taste and salt if needed and add potato water to make the sauce not too thick (or too thin). Roll out the pie crust to fit the top of your casserole. Pour the hot beef mixture into a low oval baking dish or whatever you plan to make your pie in. Add the crust on top, crimping the edges and cutting a few gashes to allow steam to escape. Bake in hot oven, center shelf until the crust is light brown; 20-25 minutes. Don’t let it get really brown; a nice golden brown is perfect. Let rest 5-10 minutes before cutting into it. Enjoy!

Crust:

1 c plus 2 Tbsp. brown rice flour mix (King Arthur basic gf blend)

2 Tbsp. sweet rice flour

1 Tbsp. granulated sugar

½ tsp xanthan gum

¼ tsp salt

6 Tbsp. cold butter cut into 6 chunks

1 lg egg

2 tsp fresh orange or lemon juice

Directions:

Mix dry crust ingredients in bowl of stand electric mixer.  Add butter and mix until crumbly and resembling coarse meal.  Add egg and lemon juice.  Mix briefly until it comes together into big chunks.  Shape into a ball with your hands. Put it on a crust sized piece of wax paper (14 x 14 inches more or less), flatten the crust ball some; put on top of it another piece of wax paper and chill it all in your fridge 10-15 minutes while the beef filling cooks and  you heat the oven. 

Satisfying Winter Salad Choices

Winter is not known as the season for great salad but it could be! It has been so cold here in PA I am longing for summer fruits so these winter salads can fill that bill when you are meal planning.

I am giving you two salads for this post plus variations for each. Try your own blends but it is best not to throw everything in the fridge in it.  Try to be selective and highlight one or two ingredients.  Simple salads I like have only three – five ingredients and I use my homemade vinaigrette dressing.   They are pretty healthy and probably fairly low in calories yet high in nutritional value.  These are basic recipes which you can tweak depending on the ingredients in your fridge and pantry.

Here are two versions of my winter salad.  This is a repost from my blog three years ago. I eat these salads all winter long and think you should too. Recently I bought a few blood oranges and used them in lieu of a navel orange; totally different look but pretty much the same flavor; fun!  Another change is I use cubed papaya in lieu of the orange.  Love that one too.

Super Winter Salad (serves 1)

½ an avocado

1 celery stalk

3-4 leaves of green loose leaf lettuce

2-3 tbsp. fresh pomegranate seeds

Or try this yummy winter salad which shows off citrus flavor and color:

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Citrus Fennel Salad (serves 1)

1 inner stalk of celery cut in 1/3 inch rounds

1 navel orange

¼ cup fennel bulb, cut in ¼-1/3 inch slices

Peel the orange, either by hand or using a paring knife.  Cut across into rounds about ¼-1/3 inch across.  Cut again across into halves.

Fennel has a sweet crunch to it, faintly tasting of licorice, kinda sort of and it marries really well with citrus.  I also like to use blood orange or cara cara navel oranges in this recipe.  Even grapefruit slices are great.  Cara cara oranges have an interesting orange-pinkish cast to the fruit and a lovely sweet flavor.  The local Giant grocery store has them on display right now.  You can also mix two citrus in your salad; a navel and a blood orange.  Fantastic!

Finishing directions for both salads:

Place the salad ingredients in your salad dish; I have some very low sided ceramic bowls I got a long time ago that I love for salad. Then sprinkle the salad with vinaigrette which you just shook up one last time! Please don’t add too much salad dressing or you will have soggy salad, really not a good thing.

Margie’s Vinaigrette

I named this after my older sister who passed away several years ago.  She made fantastic vinaigrette.  Mine is not quite like hers but close enough to masquerade as it.  She would approve….

So, I like to use one of those Good Seasoning’s jars but add my own ingredients, use a pint jar if you like; the main thing is a tight fitting lid.  Fill it to the vinegar line with red wine vinegar, please don’t use the cheap store brand (skimpy 1/4 cup).  Then some filtered water to the water line (about 1/3 inch more or two tbsp.). Next I add ½ tsp Dijon mustard, ½ tsp sea salt, ¼ tsp dried oregano, a sprinkle of dried thyme, 1 tsp mayonnaise, ¼ tsp freshly ground black pepper, ½ tsp sugar and [optional] one garlic clove (peeled and mashed down a bit to release flavor),. Then add extra virgin olive oil, stop a bit before the oil line and finish it with lighter olive oil (1/2 cup plus one Tbsp. of combined olive oils).  Shake it up really well. Then shake it some more, you need to get the mayo to blend in as completely as possible. It tastes best at room temperature and plan ahead – let it rest for at least an hour before you use it the first time.  Keep it in the refrigerator if there is any left over, lasts like a month in there. The mustard adds snap and the bit of mayo helps the dressing stay emulsified (fully blended) longer than it would without the mayo.  If your salad is delicate and you don’t want as much olive oil flavor use only mild olive oil and skip the EVOL.  If you chill the dressing you will need to let it warm up before using it; ten seconds in the microwave can help with that process.

Note: You could up the nutritional value with a few almonds or walnuts if you like nuts in your salad.

More thoughts: I make any number of salad combos.  Two of my favorite ingredient combinations are: shredded carrot, sliced radishes, chickpeas, romaine and half rounds of European cucumber or a mixture of torn kale leaves, shredded raw Brussels sprouts, scallion rounds and julienned raw summer squash.  Both mixtures are great with this vinaigrette.  Just don’t put more than say five things in any one salad or it will have a mixed up taste.

Last thoughts: I generally avoid tomatoes in winter although some grape tomatoes are pretty tasty; use them if you feel the need for tomatoes.

So, go get your healthy green on and enjoy a fruity salad, even in the winter.

Reposted from February 2015 with minor changes.

Seafood Alfredo 2.0

Long ago, I loved this seafood alfredo pasta dish: it was my favorite entrée at this French-Thai  restaurant on Linden Street in Allentown. I have replicated it once or twice before but, since then, sadly my paper version has disappeared. So I reviewed many recipes and used parts of several to come up with this version.  It is a budget and somewhat healthyish version (no heavy cream and minimal butter) and made quicker; no homemade pasta or crab meat. But, I think it does my memory justice and we sure enjoyed it for New Year’s Eve’s festive supper.

You could change up the seafood if you like. I sautéed my shrimp unpeeled and peeled them before putting them back in the sauce; more flavor that way. I cut the cooked big scallops in half to be the right size. I used gf pasta which doesn’t really have a true fettucine; it is about the width of linguini. Use whatever pasta you like. Use regular all purpose flour for creating the sauce if you aren’t gluten free. The secret to thickening this sauce is cream cheese. It melts into the cream sauce and vola! Thickened lush sauce but no heavy cream. My Italian friend Dan is probably shuddering at the seafood added and the lack of cream but I believe he would totally enjoy the flavors and textures of this seafood treat.

This fast snapshot does not do justice to this creamy delightful sauce and all the seafood in it.

Angie’s Seafood Alfredo for two

Ingredients

4 large sea scallops

8 large shrimps

1 Tbsp. mild olive oil

1 Tbsp butter

1 large shallot, diced fine

1 large garlic clove minced

1 small bay leaf

1 Tbsp rice flour

¾ cup whole milk or mixture of ½ cup whole milk and ¼ cup half and half [I did that]

2 ounces cream cheese cut into 4 cubes, room temp

1/8 tsp. red pepper flakes

¼ tsp. sea salt

1 small can minced clams, drained, save juice in case your sauce is too thick

½ of a 4 ounce can mushroom stems/pieces (drained)

3 Tbsp fresh shredded parmesan cheese

Directions:

Heat a pot of water for pasta, salt it. Make the pasta (for two people) so it is timed to be ready say 12 minutes later. Melt 1 tsp of the butter with the Tbsp. of olive oil in medium sauté pan, let get hot but not smoking. Add scallops that you dried with a paper towel, add shrimps spaced out carefully so they each have room. After a minute flip the shrimp, 1- 2 minutes later carefully flip the scallops and cook them 1-3 minutes until just done. You should have taken out the shrimps as soon as their tails curl up after their flip. Put them all in a bowl. If your scallops are large cut them in half; I did. They matched the size of the shrimp better once I did that. Add rest of butter to pan and as it melts add the shallots and after a minute the garlic and bay leaf. Heat the milk in the microwave until hot but not boiling. Cook the shallots and garlic on medium heat while stirring; for a couple minutes, then add the flour; stir to incorporate it with the butter. Slowly add the hot milk to sauté pan stirring constantly. Next add the cream cheese cubes, hot pepper flakes, salt. Cook 2 minutes, add the mushrooms, clams and any clam juice you feel is needed to maintain the creamy texture. I used a tablespoon or so of it. Stir; add back seafood and then sprinkle with the parmesan cheese and let it melt in as you stir it over low heat. When cheese is melted; serve over al dente pasta. I made skinny green beans and stirred a few into my sauce on my plate. Delish! Enjoy!