Very Lemony Lemon Bars

Bring a ray of sunshine to your plate with these bright and puckery lemon bars:

Lemon Bars with Sea Salt

‘Tis the season for lemons. Late winter offers up bushels of citrus, which transform into light and lovely desserts, such as these lemon bars. Whether you are knee deep in snow or lucky enough to live where lemons grow on trees, these lemon bars will bring a ray of sunshine to your plate.

The key to a good lemon bar, in my book, is that the filling must be intensely lemony, packing a wallop of tartness with just enough sugar, but not so sweet that it’s cloying. Picture a zingy, sweet and tart filling rippled with lemon zest, anchored to a buttery shortbread crust. The final touch is a smidge of sea salt, which keeps the sweetness in check and allows the pucker-y lemon to shine through. These bars are thoroughly addictive and guaranteed to brighten your day. One bar will never be enough.

Lemon Bars with Sea Salt

Active Time: 15 minutes
Total Time: 1 hour
Makes 32 (2-inch) square bars

Shortbread:
2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup confectioners’ sugar
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1 cup unsalted butter, slightly softened but still cool, cut into cubes

Filling:
4 large eggs
1 1/4 cups granulated sugar
2/3 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
1/4 cup all-purpose flour, sifted
1 tablespoon finely grated lemon zest
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt

Garnish:
Confectioners sugar
Sea salt flakes, such as Maldon

1. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Butter a 9 by 13-inch baking pan, then line the pan with parchment and butter the parchment.
2. Combine the shortbread ingredients in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment. Mix until the dough resembles coarse lumps and just begins to come together. Dump the dough into the prepared pan and, with your fingers, evenly press the dough to cover the bottom of the pan.
3. Bake the crust until it just begins to turn golden, about 20 minutes. Remove from oven, but do not turn off the oven heat.
4. Whisk the filling ingredients together in a large bowl until blended, then evenly pour over the crust. Return the pan to the oven and bake until the filling is set but not coloring, about 25 minutes. Remove and cool completely on a rack.
5. Cut into bars. Dust with confectioners’ sugar and lightly sprinkle with sea salt flakes before serving.

Lemon Mint Risotto

Lemon Mint Risotto TasteFood

~ Lemon Mint Risotto ~

Here is what I think about risotto: A good risotto should be creamy, but not soupy. The rice should be tender, but not mushy. Its accompanying ingredients should be minimal without overwhelming and reflect the season. This recipe  for Lemon Risotto with Mint is firmly planted in spring. Redolent with lemon and mint, the puckery citrus cuts the inherent creaminess of the risotto, while flecks of fresh mint add freshness and aroma. I like to serve small plates of this as an elegant first course to a nice meal.

Lemon Risotto with Mint
Serves 6

6 cups chicken stock
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, divided
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 small yellow onion
2 cups arborio rice
1/2 cup dry white wine
1/2 cup grated Parmigiano cheese, plus extra for garnish
2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
2 teaspoons lemon zest, plus extra for garnish
4 tablespoons finely chopped fresh mint leaves, divided

Bring stock to a simmer in a medium saucepan. Reduce heat to lowest setting and keep warm.
Heat 1 tablespoon butter and oil in a deep skillet or pot over medium heat. Add onion and sauté until softened without coloring, 2 minutes. Add rice and stir to coat. Add wine. Cook, stirring, until the wine evaporates. Add stock 1 cup at a time, stirring until nearly all of the liquid is absorbed before adding the next cup. Continue until the rice is tender but not mushy. Remove pan from the heat. Stir in 1 tablespoon butter, 1/2 cup cheese, lemon juice and lemon zest. Add 2 tablespoons mint leaves. Serve immediately in bowls garnished with extra cheese, zest and mint.

You might also enjoy these recipes from TasteFood:
Fregola Sarda with Asparagus and Lemon
Greek Couscous Salad
Farro Pilaf

Lemon Thyme Pots de Creme

Lemon Pots de Creme TasteFood

~ Lemon Thyme Pots de Creme with Lemon Sugar ~

The California weather has officially exorcised any trace of a wintry climate. Blue skies, blooming trees and air that feels like butter is the status quo at the moment. Spring is in the air, and consequently I am  craving lemons. February is peak lemon season, which spans winter to spring in California. Lemon’s bright acidity is a welcome bite of sunshine on a plate, and fortunately very portable for those of you still knee-deep in snow and far from the California.

These pots de creme are redolent with lemon, and they are a breeze to make. Creamy and comforting, this dessert will brighten your day, no matter the weather outside. Begin the pots de creme one day in advance, so they may chill overnight.

Lemon Thyme Pots de Creme with Lemon Sugar
Serves 6

Pots de Creme:
1 1/2 cups heavy cream
1/2 cup whole milk
2 1/2 tablespoons finely grated lemon zest
2 to 3 sprigs thyme
Pinch of sea salt
6 large egg yolks
1/2 cup (100 g) granulated sugar

Lemon Sugar:
1 tablespoon finely grated lemon zest
1 1/2 tablespoons sugar
Fresh thyme for garnish

Heat the oven to 325°F. Place six (6-ounce) ramekins in a deep baking dish.
Combine the cream, milk, zest, thyme, and salt in a heavy medium saucepan over medium-low heat. Bring to a simmer, then remove from heat. Cover and let stand for 10 minutes to infuse the flavors. Whisk the egg yolks and sugar in a large bowl until light. Add the cream in a steady stream, whisking constantly to blend. Pour through a fine-meshed sieve into a pitcher, pressing on the solids to extract flavor. Pour the cream into the ramekins. Pour boiling water into the pan, halfway up the sides of the ramekins. Loosely cover with foil.
Bake until the centers are set but still wobbly, about 45 minutes. Remove the ramekins from the water bath and cool completely on a wire rack. Cover and chill at least 8 hours or overnight.

Before serving, make the lemon sugar. Whisk the zest and sugar in a small bowl. Sprinkle over the pots de creme and garnish with thyme sprigs.

Blueberry Tartlets with Yogurt and Lemon

Blueberry Tartlets with Yogurt and Lemon

Blueberry Tartlets with Yogurt and Lemon – recipe by Lynda Balslev

Go ahead, indulge yourself. These gorgeous blueberry tartlets are rich and creamy, fragrant with lemon, bursting with fruit and not-too-decadent. Why? The luscious filling is 100 percent yogurt, not cream cheese or mascarpone. The trick is to choose a full fat Greek-style yogurt. It’s thick and silky, with a tang that perfectly offsets mellow, inky blueberries. The crust is a traditional graham cracker crust, which, yes, has brown sugar and butter (as any self respecting graham cracker crust should). So these tarts are just a little bit wicked, but it’s a dessert after all, and what’s wrong with being a little wicked anyway?

Blueberry Tartlets with Yogurt and Lemon

Makes 1 (10-inch) tart or 6 to 8 individual tartlets

Crust:
10 ounces graham crackers (or sweet digestive biscuits)
2 tablespoons brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup unsalted butter, melted

Filling:
2 cups whole milk Greek-style yogurt
3 tablespoons granulated sugar (or honey)
1 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest
2 cups blueberries
Lemon zest for garnish

Heat oven to 350°F (180°C). Combine the graham crackers, sugar, cinnamon and salt in the bowl of a food processor. Process until crumbly. Add butter and pulse until the crust is blended and beginning to stick. If using a tart pan, dump the crumbs into a 10-inch tart pan, pressing with fingers evenly over the bottom and up the sides. If using individual tart dishes or ramekins, divide the crumbs between 6 to 8 ramekins and press the crumbs evenly over the bottoms and up the sides. Transfer to a baking sheet. Bake in oven until crust begins to turn golden brown, 10 to 12 minutes. Remove and cool completely on a rack.

While the crust is cooling, whisk the yogurt, sugar and lemon zest in a bowl. Pour the yogurt into the cooled crust, smoothing the top. Dot the yogurt with blueberries. Garnish with lemon zest. Refrigerate until serving, up to 4 hours.

Chilled Pea Soup with Crème Fraiche, Lemon and Tarragon

Chilled Pea Soup with Crème Fraiche, Lemon and Tarragon

~ lovely bowls by Lorin K. ~

If it’s possible for a soup to evoke a dessert, then this chilled pea soup does just that. I blame the crème fraiche and lemon. When paired together they are sublime, one degree of sweet separation from the makings of an ethereal dessert. The sugar in the peas completes this imagery, and while this soup is decidedly savory with the sharp and licorice notes of radish and tarragon, one can’t help but feel just a little naughty with each billowy spoonful of luscious soup.

Chilled Pea Soup with Crème Fraiche, Lemon and Tarragon
Serves 4

1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1 large shallot, finely chopped, about 1/4 cup
1 1/2 cups chicken stock
Salt
Freshly ground black pepper

2 cups shelled English peas, about 2 pounds in the pod

1/2 cup crème fraiche
1 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest
Fresh tarragon
Sliced radishes

Melt the butter in a small saucepan over medium heat. Add the shallots and saute until translucent without browning, 3-4 minutes. Add the broth, ½ teaspoon salt and ½ teaspoon black pepper and simmer 2 minutes. Remove from heat and cool to room temperature.
While the stock is cooling, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the peas and cook until peas are tender, 2 to 3 minutes. Drain and rinse under cold water or shock in ice water to prevent further cooking.
Combine the half of the cooled stock and peas in the bowl of a food processor. Process until very smooth. Add additional stock a little at a time and process to achieve desired consistency. (The soup should be a little thick and not too runny). Transfer to a bowl, and taste for salt and pepper. Whisk the crème fraiche and lemon zest together in a small bowl. Gently stir into the peas, leaving light traces of the cream visible. Carefully divide among serving bowls. Garnish with snipped or whole tarragon leaves and sliced radishes.

If you like this, you might enjoy these recipes:
Spring Pea Hummus from Simply Recipes
Orecchiette with Spring Peas, Pancetta and Pea Shoots from TasteFood
Beef with Snow Peas from The Pioneer Woman
Linguine with Morels, Peas and Asparagus from TasteFood
Carrot, Pea and Mint Salad from Steamy Kitchen

Lemon Bars

Lemon Bars

~ very lemony lemon bars ~

‘Tis the season for lemons. Actually, late winter is the season for lemons, but happily the season spills into spring, offering up bushels of citrus which beget light and lovely desserts, such as these Lemon Bars. Lemon Bars are a family favorite, a quintessential childhood treat that pleases adults and kids alike. The key to a good lemon bar, in my book, is that the filling must be intensely lemony packing a wallop of tart, with just enough sugar, but not so sweet that it’s cloying. The final touch is a pinch of sea salt, which keeps the sweetness in check and allows the lemon to shine through.

Lemon Bars

This recipe is adapted from and inspired by many sources, including Ina Garten and, most recently, Lucas’ Lemon Bars from Food52, as well as my personal weakness for sea salt. Makes 32 two-inch square bars.

2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup confectioner’s sugar, plus extra for dusting
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1 cup unsalted butter, slightly softened but still cool, cut in cubes

4 large eggs
1 1/4 cups granulated sugar
2/3 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
1/4 cup all-purpose flour, sifted
1 tablespoon finely grated lemon zest
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
Sea salt flakes, such as Maldon or Fleur de Sel, for garnish

Preheat the oven to 350 F. Butter a 9 inch by 13 inch baking pan. Line with parchment and butter the parchment. Combine the pastry ingredients in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment. Mix until the dough resembles coarse lumps and just begins to come together. Dump the dough into the prepared pan and, with your fingers, evenly press the dough to cover the bottom of the pan. Bake the crust until it just begins to turn golden, about 20 minutes. Remove from oven.
Whisk the filling ingredients together in a large bowl until blended. Evenly pour over the crust. Return the pan to the oven and bake until the filling is set but not coloring, about 25 minutes. Remove and cool completely on a rack. Cut into bars. Dust with confectioner’s sugar and lightly sprinkle with sea salt flakes.

Simple Strawberry Cake

Simple Strawberry Cake

strawberry cake  tastefood

I managed to save the strawberries in this cake before they were devoured au naturel. Fresh strawberries usually don’t last long enough in our house to be put to baking use, disappearing in a blink of an eye, before you can say “strawberry shortcake.” When I came home from the market today with an armload of ridiculously plump organic strawberries, I was prepared to defend my purchase. I knew that any unsupervised pints would quickly go missing from the kitchen counter, so I placed a few baskets in strategic locations as a diversion from the extra pound I stashed to bake this lovely cake.

Strawberries and spring sing simplicity to me – pardon the alliteration. It’s a time to celebrate fresh seasonal ingredients as naturally as possible, with little fuss and adornment. This simple cake is an adaptation of a recipe from Martha Stewart. It’s light, gently sweetened, and generously studded with more strawberries than you know what to do with. Actually, I don’t mean that – we all know what to do with strawberries. Just be sure to save some to make this cake.

Strawberry Cake

I halved my jumbo sized strawberries in the pictured cake, but recommend quartering them if very large, so they will begin to break down while baking, making a luscious juicy mess.  Adapted from Martha Stewart.

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
3/4 cup granulated sugar, plus 1 tablespoon
1 large egg
1/2 cup buttermilk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 teaspoons finely grated lemon zest, divided
1 pound strawberries, halved – or quartered if very large

Preheat your oven to 350°F (180°C). Butter a 10-inch (25 cm) pie or tart pan (I used a 9-inch extra-deep pie pan).

Whisk the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a medium bowl. Combine the butter and 3/4 cup sugar in a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment. Beat on medium-high speed until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Mix in the egg, buttermilk, vanilla, and 1 teaspoon lemon zest on medium speed. Add the flour and mix to combine without over-mixing. Spread the batter in the prepared dish. Arrange the strawberries, cut-side down, on top of the batter, gently pressing to partially submerge. Squeeze in as many strawberries as possible – it’s ok to be greedy. Sprinkle the top of the cake with the 1 tablespoon sugar.

Bake in the oven until the top of the cake is light golden and a toothpick inserted in the center of the cake comes clean, about 1 hour. Transfer to a wire rack to cool. Before serving, sprinkle 1 teaspoon lemon zest over the cake. Serve slightly warm or at room temperature with whipped cream.