Buttermilk Almond Muffins & Meyer Lemon Curd

Buttermilk almond muffinsOver the last few years, Meyer lemons seem to be creeping into the mainstream. A cross between lemon and orange, Meyer lemons are smaller, have less acid and more sweet juiciness than common Eureka or Lisbon lemons.

I heard Alice Waters sing their praises about 10 years ago when I lived in Minneapolis, while giving a talk at a food event I attended. Because she’s Alice Waters and she could, she’d brought along a crate full of fresh, boutique-farmed California produce to display for show-and-tell.

In the middle of the big, beautiful pile of vegetables and fruits I figured I’d never, ever find in any Midwestern grocery store or produce stand was a little basket of lemons, colored an intense shade of egg-yolk orange.

Their skin was silky smooth and they had a sweet perfume I could smell from 3 feet away. One sniff of those lemons and I immediately longed to be transported to a climate where they grew.

That was a decade ago; I don’t think there was much commercial distribution of Meyer lemons; pretty much the only way you could find them was in someone’s backyard in California.

The season for Meyer lemons is relatively brief – unlike common lemons you can find any old day of the week, they appear in the market roughly between early winter and early spring.

Because they seem so scarce and rare, whenever I see them I usually buy more than I can use before they start to rot. Their skins are much more tender than the usual lemon, so they don’t last as long in the crisper drawer.

One way to preserve them is to make a buttery curd using the zest and juice.

meyer lemon curd

And a nice way to use up lemon curd (rather than tucking into it with a spoon), is baked into a topping for these tangy buttermilk muffins.

Buttermilk almond muffins

Buttermilk Almond Muffins & Meyer Lemon Curd

Yield: 1 dozen

Ingredients

  1. 1 1/3 cups all purpose flour
  2. 1/2 cup almond flour
  3. 1/3 cup sugar
  4. 1 teaspoon baking powder
  5. 1 teaspoon baking soda
  6. 1/2 teaspoon salt
  7. 2 eggs
  8. 1 1/4 cups buttermilk
  9. 4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) butter, melted
  10. Freshly grated zest of 2 Meyer or regular lemons
  11. 1/2 teaspoon pure almond extract
  12. 3/4 cup Meyer lemon curd -recipe follows (yes, you can use prepared lemon curd instead)
  13. 3/4 cup sliced, toasted almonds
  14. For Meyer lemon curd:
  15. 3 Meyer lemons
  16. 3/4 cup sugar
  17. 4 eggs, lightly beaten
  18. 6 tablespoons butter, cut into pieces

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter a muffin tin or line with cupcake liners.
  2. Whisk together the flours, sugar, baking powder, baking soda and salt in a large bowl. In a separate bowl lightly beat the eggs, buttermilk, butter, zest and almond extract; pour over the flour mixture and stir until just blended.
  3. Divide the batter into the muffin pan cups. Top each cup with 1 teaspoon each of the lemon curd and the almonds.
  4. Bake 15 - 20 minutes, or until tops are just turning golden and are firm to the touch.Cool the muffins for 10 minutes before turning out and serving.
  5. To make the lemon curd, zest the lemons with a grater, then cut them in half and squeeze the juice into a small, heavy saucepan. Add the zest and stir in the sugar to dissolve.
  6. Add the eggs and butter and place the pan over medium heat. Use a small heatproof spatula or wooden spoon to constantly stir the mixture until it begins to thicken around the edges of the pan.
  7. Scrape the sides and bottom of the pan and lower the heat a bit as you continue to stir. At this point it should form a curd pretty quickly, within a minute or two. Once it reaches a pourable pudding-like consistency, remove the pan from the heat.
  8. Strain the curd into a bowl, cover and chill at least 2 hours before using.
http://familystylefood.com/2011/03/buttermilk-almond-muffins-meyer-lemon-curd/

Shaved Squash Salad with Toasted Walnuts

I’m deep into Gabrielle Hamiltons’s book Blood, Bones and Butter.

I fell asleep last night to her words describing the first time she encounters the simple cooking of Alda, an eighty year old woman from the Italian boot heel; in Puglia. She is the mother of her then-new husband.

How this woman soulfully – and deliciously – connects with the food that literally grows like some kind of Garden of Eden in her backyard, stuff “like none” what you’d find here, outside that hot Southern Italian climate.

Produce like lemons, oranges, figs, olives, apricots, tomatoes…pine nuts that fall off the tree into the courtyard. Can you imagine?

Not to mention the zucchini, that is “less porous, less watery and has smaller seeds than ours”.

Which brings me to the subject of this post. I’ve been trying, despite my seeming lack of chemistry with squash, to learn to like them, even to show some affection. Little baby zucchini I can do. I usually eat them raw or barely cooked, dressed with lemon juice, garlic and sea salt.

But most squash, and especially summer squash, I just don’t get along with. In fact, I avoid them like a 10-year-old boy would a bathtub on a Saturday night.

I put out a plea on Twitter a few weeks ago, and my virtual friend Becky of Chef Reinvented responded with what I thought was a very brilliant, very simple idea -”shave on a mandoline, great evoo, toasted walnuts, parm. reggiano, lemon juice”… I could totally see myself hooking up with a summer squash based on that flavor profile.

And so I did. Slicing an otherwise bland squash into noodle-like ribbons and dressing with luscious olive oil, sparkling lemon juice, crisp, toasty walnuts and Parmigiano Reggiano might be the best thing you can do with a summer squash. Maybe for me the ONLY thing to do with a summer squash and still be rated PG.

Burnt-Sugar Mango Chutney & Goat Cheese Naanwich

I have a thing for flatbreads of any name and nationality – pita, roti, pizza, naan or chapati – you name it and I’ll happily eat it. Or make a sandwich out of it and then eat it.

Flatbreads are easy to make, but life gets busy. I grab them ready-made at my local international foods market or the grocery store. Naan are dependably available where I shop so I’ve been keeping them on hand lately.

You don’t have to use your own homemade mango chutney to make this simple sandwich; as our friend Ina Garten would say,”storebought is fine”…but once you see how little is involved in the recipe you might be tempted to make a batch.

The first time I made this chutney I was in a big, bad hurry and I didn’t read the recipe correctly. So I went on my merry way and caramelized the sugar before adding all the ingredients. It turned out to be one of those delicious mistakes.

I think of chutney as a gateway preserve for those with the itch to “put something up”, minus the need to fuss around with sterilizing¬†jars, lids and giant pots full of boiling sugary fruit taking up every burner on the stove .

It keeps for forever in the fridge (Okay, maybe not forever. One year. A long time.) and it can be used in glazes, marinades, salad dressings or just as the delicious condiment it is.

Burnt-Sugar Mango Chutney & Goat Cheese Naanwich

When I first made this chutney, I was in a hurry and misread the instructions. Instead of boiling sugar and water together, I cooked the sugar alone until it caramelized and then added the rest of the ingredients. My goof turned out to be a delicious one - I loved the deep color and flavor of the chutney. So I pass my recipe foible onto you.

Ingredients

  1. 3/4 cup sugar
  2. 1 cup water
  3. 1/4 cup rice vinegar
  4. 1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
  5. 2 teaspoons nigella seeds (optional)
  6. 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  7. 2 firm mangoes (about 2 pounds), peeled , pitted and chopped
  8. 3 crushed garlic cloves
  9. 1/3 cup peeled, grated fresh ginger
  10. 1/2 cup golden raisins
  11. 1/4 moist dates, pitted and chopped
  12. Fine sea salt, to taste

Instructions

  1. Heat the sugar in a heavy, medium saucepan, whisking over medium heat until dissolved and beginning to turn the color of butterscotch. Add the water - it will sputter so stand back.
  2. Add the rest of the ingredients and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to a simmer and cook until the mango is very soft and the chutney has thickened, about 30 minutes. Taste and season little by little with up to 1/2 teaspoon salt to taste. The flavor should get brighter, not salty.Makes about 2 cups.
  3. To make the Naanwich, cut one naan bread in half. Spread one half with soft goat cheese, chopped cilantro, arugula or spinach and about 2 tablespoons mango chutney. Top with other half. Cook on an oiled, hot panini grill or heavy ridged grill pan until toasted.

Notes

http://familystylefood.com/2011/03/burnt-sugar-mango-chutney-goat-cheese-naanwich/