Sunday, October 9, 2011

Lemon Curd Tartlets

I am only slightly ashamed to say that a television show was the inspiration behind my making this dessert. Actually, one episode of a TV show. We are huge fans of the 90s sitcom "Friends". We have watched every episode multiple times, and the show never ceases to keep us laughing for hours on end. And, of course, this is completely useless information for normal people, but we would probably beat a lot of you at any sort of "Friends" trivia game (anyone challenge? :)  Anyway!  In a particularly classic episode guest starring Jon Lovitz, his character (sky high at the time, mind you) hears the word "tartlets", and repeats it a few times, in wonder, then says "...word has lost all meaning." Of course, this sends us into a tizzy of laughter every single time we watch that episode (or sometimes even by just remembering it). In honor of that episode, I am actually doing something I'm not particularly fond of so don't do that often - baking - "tartlets".

All anecdotes aside, these are pretty darn good. Very easy to make these using a mini muffin pan. My tartlet pastry is a bit sweet, but not too sweet. And the lemon curd has just got that perfectly lovely lemony taste. I only make this about once a year because I really cannot resist eating them all. You should try it too :)

Lemon Curd Tartlets

You will need:

For the tart shells-
1 1/2 sticks unsalted butter, room temperature
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 3/4 cups flour
1/4 teaspoon salt

For lemon curd-
3 large lemons, room temperature
1 1/4 cups sugar
1 stick unsalted butter, room temperature
4 eggs, room temperature
pinch of salt

Tart shells:
Preheat oven to 350 F. In a large mixing bowl, mix the butter and sugar together until just combined. Add vanilla extract. In a separate bowl, sift together the flour and salt, then add to the butter-sugar mixture. Mix until the dough starts to come together. Remove to a floured surface and shape into a ball. Then break off marble-sized pieces of dough, roll between palms, flatten into discs and press each into the cups of a mini muffin pan, just until they come up the sides a bit. You should have enough dough to make about 32-36 tartlets. Press a fork into the base of each tartlet one or two times so steam can escape and they don't puff up. Bake the tartlets in a preheated 350 F oven for 15 minutes. If the edges start to brown too quickly cover the mini muffin pan with a sheet of aluminum foil in the last 2-3 minutes of baking. Cool the pan completely before removing tartlets. Use a finger to push them out, they should come out very easily.

For the lemon curd:
Remove the lemon zest with a vegetable peeler or micro plane grater, remember to avoid the white pith (will give a bitter taste). Then, juice the lemons so you get enough to make 1/2 cup of juice and set this  aside. In a food processor, mix the lemon zest and sugar until combined. The zest should be finely minced. Then, in a bowl, cream together the butter with the sugar-lemon zest mixture. Add the eggs, one at a time, followed by reserved the lemon juice and salt. Mix for a minute or two, until well combined.
Then pour this into a saucepan and cook over a very low heat, stirring constantly, until thickened. This may take about 12-15 minutes depending on the heat. Lemon curd normally thickens at a temperature just below a simmer. Remove from heat.

Fill the tartlet shells with the warm lemon curd and leave it alone (if you can resist the urge to try one) until it sets at room temperature. Will keep in an airtight container in the refrigerator for several days. This freezes pretty well too, so it's a good make ahead dessert. Enjoy!

Note: you can alternatively make the tart shell using a regular tart pan with a false bottom. It will take a bit less time, but then you'd have to cut the whole tart into wedges to make servings and that's just so boring, no?  :)

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Curried Cauliflower Soup

Seven more months of rain?  I have a feeling we're going to be having SOUP for dinner quite a bit!  This is another easy one worth trying, a good comforting soup for rainy and cold evenings.  This recipe makes a big batch, so if you are cooking for just two there will be plenty left over for the next day's lunch.  Try it!

Curried Cauliflower Soup

Serves six to eight.

You will need:

1 whole cauliflower, cut into florets
1 small white or red onion roughly chopped
3-4 cloves garlic
1 tablespoon minced fresh ginger
5 cups vegetable broth
1 (14 ounce) can coconut milk (light is fine)
1 tablespoon yellow or red curry paste
1 pinch turmeric
1/4 teaspoon coriander powder
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
optional - salt to taste (if broth is unsalted)
optional - fresh cilantro for garnish

Saute onions and garlic in the oil in a large pan on medium heat, until softened, about 4-5 minutes. Add the cauliflower and continue to cook on  medium heat until florets are halfway cooked, about 4 minutes, adding a little of the vegetable broth if necessary to keep the vegetables from sticking to the bottom of the pan. Add curry paste, turmeric, and coriander powder and stir well. Then add all the vegetable broth, coconut milk and bring to a boil. Then reduce heat to low, cover, and simmer for 15 minutes. Puree the soup (carefully) in a blender in batches or with a stick blender. Simmer before serving. Serve warm, topped with a little fresh cilantro if desired. Enjoy!

Monday, October 3, 2011

Easy Lemony Tortellini Soup

I don’t care if you say you can't cook, or say you don’t have time....ANYONE can boil water! Which is all this soup entails. This is an easy to make, great alternative to chicken noodle soup, perfectly comforting for these cozy Fall evenings. As a bonus, this uses the most interesting pasta ever - Tortellini! Easy to put together at the last minute for lunch or dinner. Seriously….try this:

Easy Lemony Tortellini Soup

Serves four.

You will need:
4 cups vegetable or chicken broth
1 pkg dried tortellini (3 serving pack, you will find it in the pasta aisle in grocery stores) cooked per package instructions
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley
1/2 teaspoon freshly cracked black pepper
optional - salt (skip if broth already contains salt)
optional - 1 teaspoon lemon zest (this gives the soup amazing flavor!)
Heat the stock to a boil and add cooked tortellini. Stir in lemon juice (and optional lemon zest). Divide equally among four soup bowls, top with parsley, and pepper. Serve immediately, with an extra lemon wedge if desired. Enjoy!