It’s winter (though sometimes it feels and looks like spring) and this is the time of year for Meyer lemons and Valencia oranges. Our trees are bursting. We’ve picked all our lemons by now, but the oranges are still in great abundance.
I have a favorite Meyer lemon recipe, which of course hails from the Chez Panisse Desserts cookbook, my go-to for baking. I make this lemon filling or sauce or curd in the winter and store it in my fridge. Whenever I open that book, I think of Lindsey and Charles Shere, two incredible people.
You may have read, Charles passed away this January, a tremendous loss. Charles and Lindsey were founding partners of Chez Panisse restaurant in Berkeley, along with Alice Waters, of course. They remained involved with the restaurant throughout. Charles and Lindsey were regulars at the Healdsburg farmers market, too. I loved seeing them Saturday mornings. Charles was ever curious, inquisitive, interested, sharing and appreciative. He was also a former music director at KPFA, art director and critic at the Oakland Tribune, composer, publisher, blogger and someone that truly loved life. They traveled a lot, so it was a treat, their return, and I looked forward to hearing about their adventures.
I will also never forget one of our first meals in Healdsburg and still to this day one of the best meals of my life. It was our first year (2000) on the farm and they invited us to their beautiful, hand-designed and hand-built home. He did that, too. We were treated to wonderful tales and stories, a delicious and of course seasonal and fresh dinner, and we relaxed in their beautiful patio and garden. I will never forget it, ever. To this day, I think of that meal as a guidepost whenever people visit.
When I pull the Chez Panisse Desserts cookbook from the shelf, I think about that dinner and their generosity, the wonderful times and tales at the market, and the energy and spirit of Charles Shere. I miss him and hold him and Lindsey in the highest light.
Chez Panisse Lemon Tart Filling:
3 egg yolks
6 Tbsp sugar
2 Tbsp milk
1/4 tsp cornstarch
6 Tbsp butter
Grate the peel from the lemons and set aside, then juice the lemons, and combine grate and juice (you will use this later).
Now beat the eggs and egg yolks, with the sugar, in a heavy non-corroding saucepan.
Combine milk and cornstarch, then mix in with eggs.
Add the lemon and grated lemon to this mixture.
Cut butter into pieces and begin adding to the egg/milk/lemon mixture, with heat on low to medium. Stir constantly as you add butter pieces. Keep stirring until the sauce thickens and you reach the consistency of crème anglaise.
Remove from heat and let set for a few minutes, then whisk.
You can store this filling in the fridge for up to a week or so. When you want to bake your lemon tart, just add this filling to a pre-baked and cooled 9-inch pastry tart. Bake at 350 for about 20 minutes or until it sets. Serve with fresh whipped cream. So delicious.
If you need a pastry crust recipe, here is a simple and delicious short dough, slightly adjusted from Chez Panisse Desserts. In a bowl, combine one cup flour, one tablespoon sugar, and a dash of salt. Cut one stick butter into pieces and then combine with flour mixture, until you reach the consistency of cornmeal. Then drizzle with about one tablespoon cold water until the dough comes together and you can form into a ball. Do not overmix. Refrigerate or spread evenly into a 9-inch tart pan, prick sides and base with a fork, then bake in a 375- degree oven for 20-30 minutes. Let cool.
Gayle Okumura Sullivan is co-owner, with husband Brian, of Dry Creek Peach & Produce in Healdsburg.