Tag Archives: fruit

Lemon Curd

13 Mar

Lemon curd.

It’s not exactly an attractive sounding name, is it? Who reads that and goes “oh yum, I must have some C.U.R.D…!”. Unless you’re British and scones make up 70% of your daily dietary intake, I don’t think anyone gets super-hyped over curd. It just doesn’t excite like Javier Bardem chocolate does, does it?

Nonetheless, lemon curd has been on my list of “things to give a go” for a while now. I love lemon flavored things, but I never really grasped the vast deliciousness of curd until I made it last Sunday morning. Somehow, I always thought of making curd as a complicated ‘fancy’ thing. And somehow, I always thought the effort wasn’t worth it. I couldn’t have hit further off the mark if I was a 10-yr old boy in a public urinal. I was so wrong. Wrong-er than Richard Simmons’ aerobic outfits, and that is a whole other dimension of wrong, folks!

It all started with a trip to Underwood Family Farms with my fiery Latina colleague Maritza. If you’re in the greater Los Angeles area, you must visit some time. If you don’t have a fiery Latina colleague named Maritza, bring your kids to achieve the same level of vivaciousness & spunk. Being a full-fledged operational farm, complete with muddied farm workers & equipment that looks like it could be featured in a Halloween horror movie. The farm has brilliantly married its day-to-day operations with modern society’s obsession with Instagram, selfie-taking and a reconnect with Mother Earth. Opening a portion of their farm to the public, the owners’ genius created a farm fun-land for city slickers like yours truly. Beside a petting zoo, a playground, farm-themed kids’ entertainment and a fairly large farm stand for those who do not ‘dirt & sweat’ well, you also have endless…endless!… fields of U-pick deliciousness which rotate with the seasons. They are, after all, a real farm. Not a Disneyland farm.

Forget the quality of the produce for a minute… If you’ve already swan-dived into farm-fresh produce, carry on. For all others, sit down next to me and read on: picking your own produce is fun & therapeutic.  I never knew that snapping broccoli off its mother-stem had addictive qualities. The very moment you know it’s going to snap off, is incredibly satisfying. Or the wet, almost muted swooshing sound a beet makes as its roots leave the ground… Not to mention the suspense of not knowing how large that sucker is going to be? Right?  Then there’s the incredible aroma that fills the air when you yank a bunch of fresh cilantro out of the dirt. I have no words for that. Or, the delicateness with which you carefully harvest raspberries, making sure you’re as gentle with them as you are with your grandmother’s porcelain. Or cupping a handful of blueberries and watching them happily dart into your basket as they release… And, last but not least, the heroic courage you find within yourself to boldly reach into a cobwebbed cluster of branches to pick the ‘perfect’ lemon, only to then frantically fling your hand a Mach 3 speed to ensure all you got was the lemon… I find it all extraordinarily relaxing and rewarding.

And then there’s the flavor… It’s the stuff of fairytales. The thing is, one day you’re eating the flavorless fruits and produce you’ve always liked and you wouldn’t change a single thing. And then, one day, the triple-threat crunch/sweet/juicy punch of a fresh vegetable gets under your skin and suddenly, the grocery store landscape is a bleak, depressing place without these fresh beauties.

Dirty, sweaty and tired – I came home with the mother-ship of Meyer lemons. Funny enough, curd wasn’t even on my mind at the time. I figured that with the Farklepants’ brothers battling a nasty head cold, I would just juice them (the lemons, not the brothers) with some ginger… but then Bobby Flay ate a scone with lemon curd on Sunday morning. All bets were off.

The recipe below makes approx. 2 cups. You’re going to want to eat this sweet tangyness straight out of the jar, so I suggest you get your spoon ready.

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LEMON CURD

(per a recipe form Life Currents)

– 0.5 cup of Meyer lemon juice (or regular lemon juice)

– 1 stick of butter (4 oz), cubed

– 0.5 cups of granulated sugar (add an extra tablespoon if using regular lemon juice)

– 1/4 teaspoon of salt, or ‘a pinch’

– 4 large egg yolks + 3 whole large eggs  (use 3+3 for extra large eggs)

In small saucepan, combine the lemon juice, sugar, butter & salt. Heat over low heat until the butter has melted and the sugar has dissolved.

In a medium size bowl, whisk 4 egg yolks and 3 whole eggs together until well-combined.

Here’s the tricky part: gently & slowly incorporate half of the hot lemon/butter mixture into your eggs, all the while whisking. This is called ‘tempering’ your eggs and forming an emulsion, so you don’t end up with scrambled eggs.

Place the bowl with the tempered egg mixture over a gently simmering pot of water (au bain marie) and incorporate the remainder of the lemon/butter mixture until it thickens. The thickening starts around 150F and will have the right consistency around 180F. If you don’t have a candy thermometer, just look for the consistency of custard. It will take approx. 5 min of constant gentle whisking (do not stop whisking, or you’ll end up with scrambled eggs!)

Also make sure to NOT boil the mixture.

Run the custard through a mesh sieve to get rid of any potential egg bits, and place the curd into a jar. Chill for at least 3 hours in the fridge.

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China Ranch Date Farm – Tecopa, CA

5 Sep

“Yosemite NP is burning!!!!!!”, she said with a slight tinge of panic in her voice, “Will we be able to go there?!”. California’s scale remains an abstract concept in my mother’s mind. She lives in miniature Belgium, where a 90-min drive in either direction takes you across the border in a completely different country with a completely different language. I explained to her that the national park is roughly the size of Belgium & Northern France combined, and that the wild fire is blazing in an area smaller than her province alone. I also reminded her that she won’t be here until 4th Oct 2013, which is roughly 4 weeks from today… I haven’t yet told her about the flooding & washed out roads in Death Valley NP, as I feel that might put her nerves over the edge.

For the first time in our 13-year history of annual cross-Atlantic visits, we’re actually planning a more elaborate road trip over the Sierras. A trip the ‘Bank of Mom’ has graciously offered to sponsor, with the courtesy of a few gratuitous hotel nights I was able to secure through industry contacts. Mom has never been to a national park, and I’m already excited about seeing the awe-struck look on her face when she’s standing at the foot of Half Dome in Yosemite NP or squints her eyes over the desolate salt flats in Death Valley NP. We’re planning a 4-day loop from Los Angeles, over the Tioga Pass, to Mono Lake, Mammoth, Death Valley and back home. The idea of spending 4 days in a confined space with my mother is both thrilling and utterly terrifying. Will I be able to satisfy my dainty mother’s cleanliness standards in roadside bathrooms, and what if we eat lunch 10 min past 12 o’clock noon? Will the Government collapse if we eat… late?!

One of the places I’m particularly excited about visiting, is the China Ranch Date Farm.

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I first heard about the ranch through C., who’s a friend and fellow-film producer of my beau. The ranch is an actively working date palm grove, located in a green lush oasis in the middle of the arid Mojave Desert, just South of Death Valley. I’ve always loved the sweet sugary stickiness of dates, and the idea of being in a place where they are grown and harvested just feet from where I’m standing, is almost too much foodie excitement for me to bear.

If you’re ever in the greater Las Vegas area, you too have got to check them out. The history and the gift shop with all of its ‘Olde World’ trinkets is worth the trip alone, but a stroll underneath the date palms is surely to be memorable.

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(Above pictures are photo courtesy of Flickr)

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