Meyer Lemon Curd with Cardamom

There are some kitchen activities that lend themselves to metaphor. Even if you are not a cook, you will likely know what I mean if I tell you about someone getting roasted at work. Or how I steep in the silence of the early morning before anyone else is up. Or how I have an idea percolating on the back burner.

But then there are other activities that only come to mean more through seemingly endless repetition. Whether specific recipes, chores, or rituals, these processes tend to become very personal symbols that are hard to communicate to anyone else. It goes beyond dog eared cookbooks and even beyond consciously recalling a recipe from memory. The process becomes some kind of psychic extension of yourself. You do them not just to have food in the fridge but because the making  feeds your soul.

Making lemon curd is like that for me.

Every winter I not so patiently wait for the email notice from Local Harvest that meyer lemons and blood oranges are in season. I quickly order several boxes, always afraid that my favorites from Beck Grove will be sold out before I get any. It’s how I imagine the people camping in line for the newest tidbit of technology feel. About a week later, I hear the boxes thud by the door. For the next several weeks my time is spent processing 20 pounds of meyer lemons and another 25 pounds of blood oranges. Dried orange and lemon rings, citrus vinegar, “bloody” marmalade, limoncello… each year I seem to run out of fruit before I’ve finished preserving.

I love everything about preserving these fruits. From lining them up on my window sill against the steely winter sky to the blood red stains on my counter.This year I had the privilege of sharing that joy with one of my favorite people. Theodore helped me haul the heavy boxes up the steps and into the kitchen. He helped open the boxes and wasn’t the only one that squealed when the glowing yellows were revealed. It was with a small sense of loss that I let him carry one around the house, knowing that it wouldn’t be salvageable for any recipe after he was done with it. But the loss was recuperated as I got to watch his curiosity lead him to knead, squish, poke, roll, and taste that lemon. Now whenever he sees the lemons sitting on the counter, he insists whoever is at home come smell them, even the cats. I hope to be the kind of parent that will protect and foster that pleasure into his adulthood. Someone who sees such a gift in just the scent of a lemon would truly be a gift to the world.

But the part that speaks to my soul is making lemon curd. Somehow, I become the eggs that break. The lemons that are squeezed so hard they bleed. The butter that finds itself melting away with no way to come back. And I feel the whisking. Endless whisking. As I stand over the pot, I feel the flame a little to close to my hand, but I keep whisking. I feel the disturbance in my soul. Beaten to a froth and then beaten some more. Constant constant motion. Never reaching equilibrium. Ceaseless whirling. I begin to wonder when it will end. How long? How long? I don’t know how much more I can take.

Suddenly.

There’s a thickness that wasn’t there before.  The whisk moves more slowly, disturbing less with every stroke.  Things become still in the center of the pot. I can see the tracks of where I’ve been. The heat is removed. I can almost hear the curd take in its first breath. And I breathe more deeply too.

Is it any wonder that the result of this process is a food that I can’t seem to get enough of? Though it may be possible to point to all the good fats in the butter, the selenium in the pastured eggs, or the vitamin C in the lemon juice, I think there is more going on here than mere nutrition. It is soul food of a different dimension.

Meyer Lemon Curd with Cardamom
makes 2 pints

6-8 Meyer lemons
6 eggs
1/3 cup honey
1 stick butter
2 tsp ground cardamom

Zest the lemons and reserve the zest. Juice them into a measuring cup until you have one full cup. If you are on the cusp of 1 cup, go ahead and juice another lemon. It’s better to have a little too much than too little. Whisk the eggs and honey in a medium pot. Pour the lemon juice through a fine sieve into the mixture and whisk until it’s the color of the first sunny day in spring. Slice the butter into pats and drop into the mixture. Turn the heat to medium high and whisk in the melting butter. Keep whisking almost constantly to avoid the eggs cooking up into chunks. When it suddenly thickens and coats the back of a spoon, turn off the heat and stir in a generous pinch of zest and the cardamom. Pour into jars. Eat one jar straight with a spoon. Tell your family the recipe only made one pint. The curd keeps in the fridge for at least a week and freezes well, though it looses a bit of it’s satiny texture upon thawing.

Posted 4 years, 8 months ago at 10:15 am. 1 comment

Yard Long Green Beans

IMG_2286This is just a quick post about a recipe Mr. Quotidian and I have been enjoying the past several weeks. Yard Long Green Beans, although they look like field peas that must be shelled, are best used like pole or snap beans. (Except for eating raw. They are bitter and chewy before they are cooked.) For any gardeners reading, these beans should be classified under Foods to Grow for Survival. The plants are magnificently prolific. At City Roots, we harvest bushels every few days.

And they are quite tasty too. I could eat a whole recipe by myself. But then there wouldn’t be any leftovers to used in the Bevy and Beans and Basil dish (recipe to come soon!). It’s such a quandary.

Yard Long Bean Sauté

2 bunches of Yard Long Green Beans
2 Tbs butter, lard, or olive oil
2 anchovy fillets
4 cloves of garlic
sea salt

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Meanwhile, rinse your beans  and snap them to a size you like. You could also peel and chop your garlic now. I like big chunks of garlic in my beans, but if you prefer a more refined mince, go for it. When the water boils, add the beans and blanch them for 45-60 seconds, just enough for them to turn bright green and cook slightly. This step evens out the cooking times, as some beans are larger than others. Strain them out and drain in a colander. Heat a large skillet over medium high heat and melt your fat. When it looks shimmery on the surface, add the anchovies and use a wooden spoon to smoosh them into the oil. They should completely disintegrate. Then add the beans and mix until they are evenly coated. I find tongs to be helpful here. Add the garlic and mix again. Cook the beans to your desired doneness – crunchy, al dente, or mushy. Turn off the heat and salt them to taste.

Posted 7 years, 1 month ago at 6:53 am. 1 comment

Bread and Butter Radishes

IMG_2147Having had my first real radish just this Friday, I felt it was necessary to spend some one on one time with the vegetable, without any distracting flavors. I was a little apprehensive, in the same way you would be if you had met Someone in line at the grocery store and decided to go out to dinner together. Sure, he’s charming now, but can he sustain hours-long conversation? Or will his wit just rub off like peach fuzz, leaving a tough leathery skin? I had similar concerns for the radish. I liked what I’d tasted so far, but then again, there’s very few things that would taste bad straight out of the field in the middle of a long hot day of farming.  Kind of like how anybody could be charming compared to vapid magazine covers and bored check out clerks in a grocery line. Would my radishes be able to sustain their beguiling quality away from the farm? More importantly, would Mr. Quotidian like them?

Continue Reading…

Posted 7 years, 5 months ago at 6:51 am. 3 comments

Potato and Leek Salad

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When I was making my menu a few days ago, it was cold and blustery outside. I also had some potatoes that needed to be used. Destiny seemed to be handing me a steaming bowl of Potato and Leek Soup.

But wait, this is Southern Destiny. And what’s that she’s wearing? Short sleeves and sandals? By the time Potato and Leek Soup night rolled around, it was a balmy 70°. I took the potatoes and leeks from Destiny’s hands, but left the soup for another day. Continue Reading…

Posted 7 years, 9 months ago at 6:32 am. 4 comments