There are times, and this is one of them, when words fail me; when I can’t be glib about food, fun, family or fear.
The horrors of the incredible series of events that began more than a week ago are still too fresh and painful, especially as I’d just turned in a column about the lack of humor in April. Little did I know.
As the events unfolded, I found myself desperate to talk to family, to get in touch with everyone I loved and cared about.
It became all too evident that we have no way of knowing when someone might be taken from us, suddenly and unexpectedly, simply by being in the wrong place at the wrong time.
I hurt for the people in Boston, in Texas, in China, whose lives were forever changed in the space of less than a minute.
I can think of nothing to say that will help or change any of it, but I will talk more often with my family and friends, hug more often those I love when I see them, and pay more attention to living and loving.
It seems so trivial to talk about recipes, but that happens to be something I have in great abundance and can share with all of you, when words fail me.
Perhaps they will be useful to you, in some small way as you, too, go on with living.
To remind myself and readers that it is spring, even though it may not feel like it, here’s a recipe for an outstanding version of my Dad’s favorite dessert, lemon pie.
For the crust: 7 ½ oz. (about 44 cookies) Lemon Thins
2 T. sugar
1 T. minced lemon zest
3 T. unsalted butter, melted
For the filling: 3 egg yolks
1 can (14 oz.) sweetened condensed milk
2/3 cup fresh lemon juice, strained (I use Meyer lemons when I can get them)
1 T. minced lemon zest
For whipped topping: 1 cup heavy cream
2 T. powdered sugar
1 T. minced lemon zest
1 t. vanilla extract
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Crush the cookies in a heavy plastic bag with a rolling pin, until fine. Transfer crumbs to a large mixing bowl. Mix sugar and 1 T. zest into the crumbs with a fork until combined, then add melted butter and mix until the mixture clings together.
Press the crumbs evenly onto the bottom and up sides of a 9-inch pie plate. Bake the crust until lightly browned 8-10 min. Remove from oven to a rack and cool to room temp. Note: To save time and make it really easy, you could also use a purchased graham cracker crust, but it won’t be as lemony.
To make the filling, beat the yolks with a hand mixer on med.-high until light and fluffy, 3-5 min. Slowly pour in the condensed milk while continuing to beat on med.-high until mixture is thick and creamy, about 3 min. Add lemon juice and 1 T. of zest and continue beating on med.-low until well combined.
Pour filling into cooled crust. Bake in 350 degree oven until the center is set, but sill jiggly, 10-12 min. remove pie from oven to a cooling rack; cool to room temp. then refrigerate pie until chilled, 3-4 hrs. or overnight.
When ready to serve dessert, beat the cream in a large bowl with a hand mixer to soft peaks. Add powdered sugar, 1 T. zest and vanilla and continue whipping to med. peaks. Serve each slice of pie with whipped cream.
I love finding new ways to serve chicken; this Greek style chicken dish is flavorful and easy.
For the Greek salsa: 4 oz. crumbled feta cheese
1 cup halved grape or cherry tomatoes
¼ cup pitted kalamata olives
¼ cup minced fresh Italian parsley
¼ cup fresh lemon juice
¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
1 T. chopped fresh oregano
For the chicken: 6 skinless bone-in chicken breast halves
Kosher salt and ground black pepper
2 T. extra-virgin olive oil
2 lemons, cut into wedge
Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Combine all of the salsa ingredients (cheese through oregano above) in a large bowl; cover and chill.
Season the chicken pieces with kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper. Saute in a large roasting pan over med.-high heat until browned on the skin side.
Turn chicken over and squeeze lemon wedges over the chicken to coat with lemon juice then nestle the squeezed wedges around the chicken breasts.
Roast until the chicken reaches an internal temp. of 160 degrees on an instant-read thermometer, about ½ hr. Transfer chicken and lemons to a platter; top with salsa.
Note: I like to serve a small bowl of Greek yogurt on the side with this chicken dish; a small dollop of the yogurt on top adds just that bit of extra flavor; don’t use flavored yogurt, just plain.
If you find yourself craving a bowl of comfort, try this rich and creamy soup, with good-for-you sweet potatoes.
4 T. butter
1 large onion, chopped
2 leeks, trimmed and sliced
6 to 7 oz. sweet potatoes, peeled and diced
3 ½ cups vegetable stock
1 T. chopped fresh parsley
1 bay leaf
2/3 cup heavy cream
5-6 oz. gorgonzola cheese, crumbled (or use blue cheese)
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
2 T. finely crumbled gorgonzola cheese (or blue), for garnish
Melt butter in a large saucepan over med. heat. Add onion and leeks and cook, stirring, for about 3 min., or until slightly softened.
Add the sweet potatoes, cook for another 5 min., stirring, then pour in the stock, add the parsley and bay leaf, and season with pepper.
Bring to a boil, reduce heat, cover pan and simmer for about ½ hr. Remove from heat and let cool for 10 min. Remove and discard bay leaf.
Transfer half of the soup to a food processor and blend until smooth.
Return to the pan with the rest of the soup, stir in the cream and cook another 5 min. Gradually stir in the crumbled cheese until melted (don’t let the soup boil!)
Remove from heat; ladle into warmed bowls and garnish with finely crumbled cheese. Serve with slices of crusty bread.