Sunday, November 14, 2010

When you get lemons, make lemon bars

It was a lovely, productive weekend here in the Valley.  I remembered to start my paperwhites, so perhaps they will be blooming in time for the solstice next month. I love their scent, and the bright white blooms in the midst of winter. I was excited to find a tip to keep them from getting too tall and falling over: water them with gin. Not pure gin, but about 7 parts water to 1 part gin (or vodka or other liquor you have on hand). I'll be using gin because, in a foolish, foolish attempt at economy, I tried a less expensive brand and it was ghastly. Never economize on liquor, darlings. It's always a mistake.  

The pumpkin in the background is in the oven right now, after being stuffed with everything good--in this case, rice, bacon, aged white cheddar, some blanched winter greens, a few black trumpet mushrooms, lots of garlic, and scallions. 

When baked in the pumpkin with a bit of cream for an hour and a half, it produces a sort of risotto. When you mix in the pumpkin flesh, it makes a great meal in a bowl.Another benefit? No pots or pans to wash. And plenty of leftovers for lunch tomorrow. My kind of meal.

There were a couple of errands I'd needed to do for a few weeks--dropping off items at a consignment shop and at Goodwill after the lastest round of closet purging. The way I dress has changed dramatically since I moved to Oregon and started working for a small, home-based business instead of for a university library. Unless I'm at a book fair, I only see my four colleagues at work, and we all wear the usual Oregon uniform of jeans with tees, fleece, sweaters, or hoodies. When I was a child, I loved reading biographies, especially those of women. There were few of these to choose from in the 60s, so I read several bios of Dolley Madison, First Lady, famed hostess, and the woman who introduced ice cream to the U.S. I always remembered Dolley's Quaker mother rebuking her for her interest in fashion: "If thou art clean and warm, that is enough." Add "and dry" to that and you have the Oregon dress code.  So off go the skirts, heels, and cashmere overcoat I haven't worn in two years. May someone else find them useful. 

The most exciting event of the weekend was the arrival of the first Meyer lemons of the season at the local market. These are my favorite citrus fruits--tangy and tart, but not sour. They're wonderful for baking and, of course, for one of my favorite cocktails, the Lemon Drop. No sugar needed for the latter, just vodka and lemon juice, as God intended. 

I used this week's lemons to make one of my favorite desserts, lemon bars. It's amazing what one can do with just a half pound of butter, almost a pound of sugar, half a dozen eggs, some flour, and half a dozen lemons.

I got to use one of my most beloved kitchen tools, the Microplane zester. Truly, this thing changed my life. 

I get my eggs from a local farmer. Her chickens are laying fewer as the days get shorter and colder, so a half dozen in one go was quite the extravagance, but oh-so worth it. 

My hands were sore from juicing and zesting, but the final product eased the pain. Kitty cookie jar approves. 

They're not really lemon bars until they're dusted with powdered sugar. Only problem? You have to wait for them to cool. 

But then, suddenly, they're ready. And they're amazing. So rich. Tart and tangy, not too sweet. Perfect.

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