Archives for the month of: February, 2012
Painting shows pear-ginger muffins and ingredients

Pear Ginger Muffins aka “Brown Study” 12″ x 12″ gouache and watercolor pencil. Sharyn Dimmick

The Daring Bakers’ February 2012 host was – Lis! Lisa stepped in last minute and challenged us to create a quick bread we could call our own. She supplied us with a base recipe and shared some recipes she loves from various websites and encouraged us to build upon them and create new flavor profiles

Neither Lisa nor I had any idea just how challenging the Daring Bakers’ Challenge would be for me on my maiden voyage. The parameters were simple enough: make a quick bread, either in muffin or loaf shape. Post paragraph one above to begin the blog post.

I have cerebral palsy, which may or may not give me altered bone density. I have had all month to think about the baking challenge and to fantasize about what I would make. Should I make a coconut bread with fresh coconut and coconut milk? Should I concoct some kind of Nutella swirl thing in honor of Margit’s birthday month? Should I make something with limes, having scored a bag from the rotting rack at Canned Foods?

I mulled these choices over while I walked along Franciscan Way, going to Margit’s to feed her cats on Thursday morning. My left foot began to hurt insistently. I sat down on the verge to take off my shoe, thinking that my two-day old shoes were not fitting well. I ran my hand inside my shoe and straightened my sock, found nothing and resumed walking in some pain. Franciscan is a lonely stretch of roadway, abutting the Sunset Cemetery where my grandparents are buried. I fed the cats, cleaned their box, walked uphill to the Kensington Library, returned books, looked for job listings and went home for lunch.

My mother and I often have tea together in the afternoon in the upstairs library. She sits on the love seat and I sit on the matching dark red leather armchair with my feet on a black leather ottoman. When I removed my shoes, owing to the warm day, I saw that my little toe was blue and there was a bruise on the heavily calloused outside section of my left foot where the pain was. Uh-oh. The last time I had bruising like that I had broken my hand in two places.

By Friday I had called my foot doctor and requested an appointment and started to minimize any weight-bearing and to sit with my left foot elevated whenever possible. I brought a cutting board into the breakfast room and did all the chopping, slicing and peeling for soup that I could do sitting. By Sunday morning, I felt ready to tackle the muffin challenge. I pushed a light chair into the kitchen to encourage me to stay off my feet, maneuvered myself around as much as possible using the edges of counters and hopping carefully on my shod right foot. When I had to put my left foot down, I did my best to put my weight on the heel and avoid the front part of the foot.

I decided to make a variation on Mollie Katzen’s Spicy Gingerbread from The Enchanted Broccoli Forest, incorporating some finely diced pears with the sauteed butter and grated fresh ginger, and making the resulting batter in a standard 12-muffin tin. I began by whisking my dry ingredients together in a large mixing bowl:

1 cup unbleached flour

1/2 cup whole wheat pastry flour

1/2 cup whole wheat flour

1 and 1/2 tsp baking soda

1/2 tsp ground cloves

1/2 tsp dry mustard

1/2 tsp ground cinnamon

1/4 tsp kosher salt

generous grating of fresh nutmeg

Then I microwaved about 1 Tbsp of butter in a glass liquid measuring cup, swirling it in the cup to coat the sides to the 1/2 cup mark, before pouring it off into the muffin tin, a few drops in each cup. I then measured

1/2 cup honey

1/2 cup molasses into the pre-buttered measuring cup and poured them into a small bowl, to which I added

1/2 cup plain yogurt and

1 large egg.

I preheated my oven to 375 and put the butter-smeared tin into it to heat.

I whisked that together as I began melting 1/4 cup butter on very low heat in a small skillet. While the butter melted I peeled and chopped

2 small Bosc pears into a small dice

I then took a hand of fresh ginger from the freezer where we store it and grated three small knobs into the melted butter (about 3 Tbsp), added the diced pears and cooked it for awhile and turned off the heat while I rescued the tin from the hot oven.

I was all set to combine the ginger-butter-pear mixture with the honey, molasses, yogurt and butter and moved toward it, managing to knock both the bowl of wet ingredients, the whisk, the measuring cup and a rubber scraper onto the flour. I let out a cry, though not a swear-word, and righted the bowl to save what I could. The cry brought Mom from the upstairs to tackle the floor while I measured out another half cup of yogurt and a half cup of honey to replace what had been lost,  and added them to what remained in the bowl. I then moved my chair out of the mess, combined the pears, butter and ginger with the remaining molasses, honey, egg and yogurt, stirred the wet ingredients into the dry, swiped the now-cooled muffin tin with some Crisco that Mom got down from the cupboard for me and hoped for the best as I filled the tin and set it in the oven. I then stalked off  on my heels to make some coffee and set down morosely to let the muffins bake and the coffee water boil.

I needn’t have worried. The muffins came out gingery and delicious with small, soft chunks of pear glistening like jewels. They rose well. They browned well. I can now say that Mollie Katzen’s spicy gingerbread recipe is well-nigh indestructible, even if you drop the wet ingredients on the floor and spill half of them before incorporating your butter and ginger. Thank goodness. Now I will wait to see what the good doctor has to say this afternoon* while I consider the wisdom of taking on any further challenges than the ones I am already equipped with naturally.

* Sad to say my doctor’s visit was aborted by a sudden attack of norovirus. Today I switched to a walker until such time as I am allowed to darken his doorway. Projected visit: Friday morning.

Dear Readers,

I had a new post in the making for you today. I just needed to finish the painting. Alas, I was stricken early this morning with norovirus and my only activities do not belong on a food blog. I apologize for the delayed post, which I will get up when I am able. Thanks for your understanding — Sharyn aka The Kale Chronicler

Painting shows lemon bars.

Lemon Bars. 8″ x 8″ watercolor pencil. Sharyn Dimmick.

Two of my mother’s favorite flavors are brown sugar and coconut: when she was a child she mixed up a big jar of coconut and brown sugar, planning to eat it. Not only did her mother punish her for “wasting food,” she also threw out the mixture. Now, I ask you, who wasted that particular food?

Anyway, I arrived home yesterday from several days in the foothills of Amador County. In my absence, Mom had made a pot pie and roasted a pork loin and some vegetables. As we ate the pot pie for lunch, Mom said, a little sadly, that there were no sweets except chocolate and that she might have to just eat oranges.

My Mom is a hard worker and she has a sweet tooth. Plus, she had been given some Meyer lemons by our next door neighbor. I offered to make something since it was blogging day. I had just seen a recipe for lemon bars from Sawsan at Chef in Disguise this morning, which had sent me running to my Alice Medrich Pure Dessert cookbook and my binder of recipes to compare ratios for lemon bar base ingredients. I like lemon bars and will eat anything that even looks like one, but Mom and I agree that the crust on lemon bars is often too thick, too rich and too sweet. I asked if there was pie crust left from the pot pie. Negative. That meant I would be starting from scratch. Mom asked if I would want to make a lemon pudding instead. I naturally thought she meant our favorite lemon pudding which has lemon filling trapped between two layers of a rich mixture of Wheaties, butter, coconut and brown sugar. And then I thought, “Why not combine them? What if I made a base of butter, brown sugar, crushed Wheaties, flour and coconut and then put lemon filling on top of that?”

Down to the kitchen I went, taking the Medrich cookbook with me: I would use her recipe as a guideline for my lemon filling because she likes a tart lemon bar. I dug out the recipe for lemon pudding from a file box in the cabinet and studied the crust ratios for three recipes. I decided I would use 1/3 cup butter, 1/3 cup whole wheat pastry flour, 1/3 cup crushed Wheaties and 1/3 cup flaked coconut, plus 1/4 cup brown sugar for the pastry base, which I combined with a pastry blender and baked for twenty minutes in a 350 degree oven. I then turned the oven down to 300.

I meant to use Medrich’s measurements for the lemon filling, but I couldn’t bear the thought of 1 cup plus 2 tablespoons of white sugar, so I decided to use 1 scant cup instead. I was aiming for her 1/2 cup of lemon juice, but after I zested and squeezed five small Meyer lemons and one stray tangerine that some cat had batted under the sideboard (it resurfaced last week and had seen better days, looking a little battered), I had 1/3 cup juice plus a little and decided to go with that. I used 1 Tbsp of whole wheat pastry flour and 2 Tbsp of all-purpose flour, whisked that with the 1 cup sugar, whisked in three eggs, added the lemon juice and zest, and poured the result onto the hot crust.

I baked the bars at 300 for nearly half an hour until the filling no longer jiggled when I tapped the pan. I cooled the pan on a rack while I went to Berkeley to pick up my vegetables. It was a bad day for bus service: I returned three hours later, put the vegetables away and cut the first square from the pan. I cut it in half and brought half to Mom who was watching T.V. She approved of the strong lemon flavor, but wondered why there was no topping. I said that lemon bars usually don’t have a topping and if I had made crumb topping for the top it would have taken twice as much butter. She asked why I hadn’t dusted them with powdered sugar and I said I was afraid that they would be too sweet.

These lemon bars came out buttery and lemony with a delicious brown sugar and coconut crust. Despite the scant cup of sugar they were not too sweet. Many lemon bar recipes call for shortbread crusts that take an entire stick of butter: with 1/3 cup of butter, the flavor of butter comes through beautifully.

Food notes: To get a generous 1/3 cup of juice I used five small Meyer lemons and one small battered tangerine. If you use Eureka lemons, you may not need more than two. Meyer lemons are sweeter and less acidic than ordinary lemons, so you may need to increase the sugar to a generous cup and add a dusting of powdered sugar. If you have access to Meyer lemons, you can follow my measurements exactly, if that is your style. I was afraid to use all whole wheat pastry flour in the filling, but it worked fine in the crust. If you do not have Wheaties, you can substitute ground oatmeal (put rolled oats or quick oats in a blender for a few seconds), crushed wheatmeal biscuits, or a dry cereal of your choice.

painting depicts bowl of corn soup and ingredients with lime tree

Mexican Corn Soup with Lime Tree. 12″ x 12″ watercolor pencil and gouache. Sharyn Dimmick

While I was in northern New Mexico my meditation teacher gave me a bag of blue cornmeal from the local farmers’ market and the suggestion that I teach you to chew slowly. Two days into the retreat she recommended that we chew the first three bites of each meal thirty times.

Meditation retreats are full of odd suggestions to the uninitiated. The first time I went to one the teachers told us as we took each bite of food to think about all the things that produced the food: air, sun, rain, soil, bacteria, seeds, farmers, labor, plants, wind, bees, etc., etc. We were eating vegetarian food so we did not have to think about the animals who died, although they did mention bugs and mice killed in the fields during harvest. They instructed us to note while we ate biting, chewing and swallowing, if not the arising of the urge to bite, chew and swallow.

After three meals of thirty-chew first, second and third bites, we compared notes. One woman said she noticed that each kind of lettuce tasted different. A couple of women said they forgot about slow chewing until partway through each meal. One said she normally ate her meals in five minutes and that the slow chewing allowed her to look around and notice where she was. Some people said they ate less food. Others said they digested their food better. Two of us said that once we started counting chews we found it hard to stop. Lisa provided statistics: 43 chews per piece of bread, 32 per bite of salad, 51 per leaf of kale.

When I thought I would bring you something back from New Mexico I thought perhaps I would bring the recipe for butternut squash lasagna with bechamel or the potato and artichoke soup with chicken, or the intriguing brown soup of roasted parsnips and turnips. I did not imagine I would tell you to chew three bites of food thirty times during your next three meals. Try it if you want. You might notice the licorice taste of tarragon in the soup, the bite of the basil salad dressing, see the way a raw onion sends its sulfurous chemicals to the roof of your hard palate soon after you taste first the sweetness, then the sharpness.

Meanwhile spring has hit California with rain, blooming rhododendrons, pale daffodils, camellia buds, flowering fruit trees. The cold mornings and nights call for wintry soups. Here’s an easy one, a gluten-free, vegan corn soup, made from the kind of things that can get you through the winter and the bright flavors of lime and cilantro, which grows here long after the basil is gone. I copied this from a bowl of soup I once had at Radio Valencia in San Francisco, taught myself to notice the flavors and construct a similar soup. You can make it in the summer, too, when sweet corn comes in, but frozen corn is adequate for these frigid days and it’s a nice change from winter roots and greens.

Easy Mexican Corn Soup

Mise in place: you will need just four ingredients: a bag of frozen corn, a jar of red salsa, two limes,  one bunch of washed cilantro (fresh coriander), including the roots. You may reserve a few cilantro sprigs for a garnish. Equipment: one stock pot, one chopping knife, one blender and two hands.

Get out your stockpot and put it on your largest burner.

Plunk your frozen corn into the stock pot and open your jar of salsa. Pour the salsa over the corn and turn on your burner to low heat. Cut your limes in half and squeeze their juice into the pot (I just use my hands for this). If the limes are hard, roll them around on your cutting board before cutting and squeezing them. Now chop your cilantro, roots, stems and all, and throw it into the pot. Rinse your salsa jar with plain water and add the water to the soup. Cook until the corn is soft and puree the soup in the blender. I do this in several batches, sometimes leaving some whole kernels of corn for texture and appearance.

Food notes: I have made this with one pound of corn and fourteen ounces of salsa and with three pounds of corn and 28 ounces of salsa. I have added roasted squash to it when I had some leftover and the corn seemed skimpy. You can adjust thickness and heat by adding more water or more salsa. I have made it with green salsa (salsa verde): the thing is, green salsa tends to make the soup too hot (this soup gains heat as it sits) and the color is not as pretty — I would recommend using red. If you don’t like cilantro, this is not a soup for you — I can’t think of another winter herb to substitute for it. If you can, go for it and report back to the rest of us. This soup has every virtue you could want: it is low in fat, gluten-free, dairy-free and makes use of seasonal herbs and citrus, plus common foods stored for the winter. The thing is, it does not taste like a virtuous soup, and you can always eat it with toasted cheese. Someone I know once suggested putting shrimp in it. Have at it. For more soups and salads featuring fresh herbs, check out the February entries at No Croutons Required on Tinned Tomatoes.

Chewing notes: This soup will not give you opportunity for chewing practice, but perhaps you could eat it with some bread, tortillas, or a green salad. I can attest to the fact that chewing See’s chocolates does not make you eat fewer of them, but it does allow you to enjoy them more — guess what we eat on Valentine’s Day?

photo shows Mosaic blood orange oil, cookbook, oranges and muffins

Oops — no painting. Had to substitute a photograph

It is now February and the tangerines have stopped arriving, but the oranges are still in full swing. This morning was cold and we needed a hot breakfast. Because I am preparing for a trip to New Mexico I picked up my copy of Moosewood Restaurant Cooks at Home on my way down to the kitchen. This book falls open on its own to Multigrain Muffins on page 56, the recipe I use most often (For a zucchini season variation, those of you in the southern hemisphere might want to check out zucchini gingerbread muffins, adapted from the same basic recipe). The muffin is a good, plain, not-too-sweet muffin containing oats, whole wheat pastry flour, buttermilk and vegetable oil.

Because there were fourteen oranges sitting on the counter we were going to have orange muffins. Grab a large one and begin zesting it with the microplane into a small mixing bowl. All of your liquid ingredients, plus some brown sugar and quick-cooking oats are going to go in with the zest. Got all the zest? Now juice the orange into a one-cup measuring cup. I got somewhere between 1/4 cup and 1/3 cup. Since the Moosewood recipe calls for one cup of buttermilk, I pour buttermilk into the orange juice until I reach the 1-cup mark. See? I have just made my first substitution: 1/4 plus cup fresh orange juice plus zest for 1/4 cup plus of buttermilk. Both buttermilk and fresh orange juice are acid and will be reacting with the baking soda in the recipe to rise. Now I turn on my oven to 400.

Having substituted orange juice for part of the buttermilk I followed the recipe as written for awhile, adding to my orange-buttermilk mixture, one egg, 1/3 cup packed brown sugar and 1/2 cup quick-cooking oats.  I whisk all that together. Quick cooking oats feature smaller pieces than rolled oats. Soaking in liquids helps them break down and blend with the other ingredients — you won’t know they are in the finished product, which is useful if you have suspicious children or significant others who are dismissive of “health foods.”

The recipe calls for 1/4 cup vegetable oil. I usually use corn oil, but I have a secret ingredient for citrus recipes, a wonderful product by Mosaic, a blood orange olive oil. In case you don’t know yet that I am not a high-income gourmand who goes out and buys everything under the sun, let me tell you that this oil showed up at my local Canned Foods Grocery Outlet. My friend Elaine gave me some as a gift and I went down and snapped up another bottle of my own. If money is no object, order yourself some. If you find it on sale, stock up. This morning I was wondering if I could buy some blood oranges and whomp up some of my own for less than the cost of a new bottle (my supply is getting low), so I read the label. They make this stuff by pressing olives and blood oranges together. Oh. Too bad — I don’t have access to olives.

Anyway, back to the recipe. In the same measuring cup I used before I poured about 1 Tbsp blood orange oil. Then I filled it with corn oil to reach 1/4 cup. This was my second substitution and there is a theme here: with each substitution I am building orange flavor. I’ve added zest, juice and now oil made from olives and oranges. Just for the heck of it, I added 1 tsp of vanilla and a grating of nutmeg because I like them.

Okay. Now I’m almost done substituting. I docilely mix the 1 cup unbleached flour, 1 cup whole wheat pastry flour, 1/4 tsp salt, 1 tsp baking soda and 1 tsp baking powder called for in the book, whisking them together in a large mixing bowl. Before I stir them into the liquid ingredients I get out my standard 12-muffin muffin tin. I am too old to eat jumbo muffins — if I want more, I’ll just have two.

Oops. Substitution number three coming up: Moosewood says to oil the muffin tins: if I do, they will stick — I need something greasier than oil. I dig out the greasy margarine from the butter compartment (this is the kind of thing we use margarine for — if I didn’t use margarine I’d lube the tin up with good old Crisco or another vegetable shortening. Or if I had a butter wrapper handy I’d swipe it through the muffin cups). For insurance I melt the tiny half pat of butter on the butter plate and swab that in with my fingers. It will add flavor.

Time to mix the liquid with the dry ingredients. I made a well in the dry, poured the liquids in and mixed with a rubber scraper just until I saw no flour clumps, hauled the batter into the tin quickly with the same scraper and popped the muffins into the oven. While they baked for twenty minutes I had time to do all of the dishes and put stray ingredients away, plus get out a cooling rack.

The muffins were good. That’s why I’m telling you about them. I made myself a cup of decaf coffee with half and half and ate two of them slowly. They have a subtle sweetness, best noticed if you chew them thoughtfully rather than wolf them down. I know from experience that Moosewood’s Multigrain Muffins taste sweeter and stronger after they have cooled, but it is lovely to eat them hot on a cold morning and know that the ones you don’t eat will taste better later.

Food Notes: The Mosaic blood orange oil is a lovely thing. I said that already. I would try any oil of theirs that I came across. No, they do not pay me, and I have no affiliation with the company. Could you make lemon muffins instead? You certainly could. Tassajara Bakery used to make a killer lemon-ginger muffin. You could do that, too. Could you use all white flour? Sigh. Yes, you could, although it pains me to admit it. In the privacy of your kitchen you can pile on the white flour and white sugar, too. I do that in desserts sometimes, but I don’t like gummy, white muffins. Could you use a different oil? Sure. If you keep to the amounts given in the recipe you can make any reasonable substitution. Out of buttermilk? Use yogurt or sour milk. Have only regular milk in the house? Sour it with a little vinegar or lemon juice OR eliminate the baking soda and add an additional teaspoon of baking powder. Enjoy

Painting Note: There is no painting this week. I thought there would be — let’s just say time management is not my forte. I did take a few photos to prove that I actually made these muffins and didn’t make them up, so, just this once, I substituted a photograph for a painting.

By the time you read this I will be en route to Taos, New Mexico sans mobile devices for eight days. I will not be able to read and respond to comments until my return on February 12, but I love it when you comment. If I can, I will bring you back something good from the land of green chile and pine nuts.

“Live in each season as it passes; breathe the air, drink the drink, taste the fruit, and resign yourself to the influences of each.”
Henry David Thoreau

and if that means 15 kinds of citrus meals, so be it.
Suzanne Edminster at Saltworkstudio
http://saltworkstudio.wordpress.com
Ms. Edminster is my best friend and kindly sent me the Thoreau quote this afternoon for the blog. To me the quote and her comment capture the essence of seasonal cooking: things never taste fresher or more lovely than in their true season and we are wise to eat them then and let them pass for the rest of the year as the calendar and the fields move on to new delights. We may, like Greg Brown’s grandmother, put the summer in jars, if we have the skill, and be able to taste raspberries on our toast in February (to my mind preferable to any red velvet dessert). Or we may make do with frozen berries and store-bought jam and wait for each season to come round again. And while there are delightful days for seasonal cooks when we buy our favorite things at the market or get our favorites in our CSA there are also the days when we say, “Oh, God. Another bunch of kale. Another four pounds of tangerines. What am I going to do with ten leeks and four celery roots?” A cleverer person than I called this “vegetable triage.” Most of us seasonal cooks are dedicated to this way of eating and living and will eventually grumble and take up the challenge.
Painting depicts partial Shaker Lemon Pie in front of a Meyer lemon tree.

Meyer Lemon Pie. 12″ x 12″ watercolor pencil, watercolor and gouache. Sharyn Dimmick

Debra of Three Well Beings wondered if I needed an assignment to get me going again on blogging about seasonal food. She asked if I had any more lemon recipes. Well, there is one lemon recipe I have been wanting to try ever since hearing about it: Shaker lemon pie, a pie of thinly-sliced lemons marinated in sugar overnight before being mixed with eggs, butter and flour and baked in a two-crust pie. You heard me right: two crusts. Every other lemon pie I make is a one-crust affair and even though I am temporarily out of unbleached flour I have pie crust in my refrigerator because we always make four crusts at a time. You can find my mother’s pie crust recipe here, if you need a recipe.

You can’t get any more local than going outside the front door to pick Meyer lemons off your own tree. Our tree is organic, too, meaning we give it very little: coffee grounds, tea leaves, water and a little copper now and then. Mom has been pruning it relentlessly to try to get it to bear its fruit high above the ground, hoping that snails all have fear of heights, so it is not the most prolific lemon tree on the block, but it had enough lemons for the pie (the recipe I used called for two, but that looked so pitiful in my glass bowl that I went out and picked a third to add to it).

I brought the lemons back inside, rinsed them and dried them. Before I even went to the kitchen or the yard I Googled a recommended recipe and tried to find out how to slice lemons “paper-thin.” No luck. Considering that recent tests put me in the first and fifteenth percentile for manual dexterity (that means either ninety-nine or eighty-five percent of people tested are more dextrous than I am), I recognized that thin rounds might be a problem. I have neither the patience nor the experience of Shaker women who have made this pie many times, although I share their desire to cook frugally.

First I tried a thin-bladed serrated knife. I worked slowly and held the lemon firmly. I even sliced off a slab on one side so that the lemon would sit flat on the cutting board. Try as I might I could not get those tissue-thin perfect slices. Next, I got out the mandoline. The mandoline sliced through the pith and tore the lemon flesh. Not good. Finally, I took up a sharp steak knife and slowly, carefully, tried to cut see-through slices. I got a few. The closer you get to the far end of a lemon, the harder it is to hold it steady. I need a lemon vice. The only thing I didn’t try was the meat slicer.

Because I was using whole lemons, minus only the seeds, I put in the entire two cups of sugar the recipe called for: lemon pith is bitter and I did not want a bitter pie: tart, yes, bitter, no. And I followed the recipe for filling that my friend Carol uses, purloined from the online version of Joy of Cooking because I had never made this pie before.

I put the lemons to marinate in a clear glass bowl in the refrigerator, placing a china plate on top to seal the bowl (I am one of those people who feels bad when I use plastic wrap and I love finding ways around it). Then yesterday we went out and bought the flour we needed to finish the pie during our weekly grocery-shopping rounds.

First I rolled out the bottom crust and put the oven on to preheat at 425. Then I whisked 4 large eggs in a mixing bowl and added 3 Tbsp flour. Why didn’t I whisk an egg slowly into the flour and avoid lumps? Because sometimes I don’t think, that’s why, but you can do it that way. Then I melted 1/4 cup unsalted butter in the microwave and had to let it cool. Why didn’t I melt the butter first before beating the eggs? See above answer. I don’t often use mise en place, although quite often I should.

Anyway, with a lot of whisking I got a fairly smooth mixture, then added the lemon-sugar mixture and whisked again. I poured it into my prepared pie shell and rolled out a top crust, pinched the edges together and put the pie into the oven. This is one of those stay in the kitchen (or use a timer) recipes because you need to turn the oven down to 350 after 25 minutes. It might be a good idea to turn it down a little sooner or start it at 400 — my crust browned awfully fast. The filling turned a jammy, deep golden color, reminiscent of the color of the ripe Meyer lemons themselves.

Madge, the pie critic, commented that it was a little bitter. She’s right — it has a slightly bitter edge like a mild marmalade does because you use the whole lemon. I don’t mind it. It has deep lemon flavor. And her comment did not stop her from having another piece at lunch today. If you need a pie that is all sweetness and light, this is not your pie, can’t be your pie. If you love all lemon desserts all the time, make it and see what you think.

painting shows a single red shoe.

One Red Shoe. 8″ x 8″ gouache and watercolor pencil. Sharyn Dimmick.

Okay, so what’s this about the red shoe? Not in the pie, silly. Cecilia of TheKitchensGarden kindly awarded me the Educational Shoe Award, given to blogs that teach, because I preach the gospel of seasonal cooking and because I chime in with helpful hints on other food blogs when I think something I say might be helpful. It came with a high-heeled red shoe. I am grateful to Cecilia for honoring me and my two cents worth: she lives on a farm, raising animals and bees and crops, preserving her own bounty and wishing us cheery good mornings from her Illinois homestead. She also writes and coaches us on how to take better photos. I am also grateful to her for giving me the opportunity to paint red shoes. Turns out I own and have owned several red shoes, but this is the first red shoe that came to mind, a little flat number because I can’t walk in high heels. I will pass on the award in a future post after I have had time to study some potential recipients and think on it.

Food notes: You need the sugar in this pie — all of it: you need it to transform the bitter pith. I can’t recommend experiments or substitutions because this is the first time I have made this pie, although I can confess to wondering if I could make it with thin-skinned Valencia oranges, or a mixture of oranges and lemons. The official recipe says “thin-skinned lemons” (Meyers are perfect). You need thin-skinned varieties because they have less pith.

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