My past 28 days have looked something like this:
Santa Barbara, CA –> Baltimore, MD –> Wilton, CT –> Lake Joseph, Ontario (Canada) –> New York City, NY –> Baltimore, MD –> Santa Barbara, CA.
We’ve just arrived back home (we being the husband, the pug, and myself, and home being to the farm) after a whirlwind East-Coast-meets-Canada Summer tour that was packed sardine-tin style with cross country flights and long long drives: a marvelous wedding weekend in a picturesque New England town, two weeks spent on an island in the middle of a giant lake in Canada, and a full week back in The City – my old love – New York, New York.
(An aside: Given that these three locales and disparate occasions demanded quite different attire, you can surely ascertain exactly how nonplussed the look on James’ face was when he saw me attempting to heave two full-sized and at-limit suitcases onto the belt in addition to the tote bags/handbags/saddlebags that I looped over his shoulders like my own personal travel burro. Efficient packer, I am not.)
Having – quite surprisingly – not traversed outside of the Pacific time zone since our arrival on the farm last Winter, we had a veritable laundry list of friends to see, places to visit, and cakes to bake (that’s a normal thing, right?), and in what seems like a relatively long stretch of time (nearly a month), we somehow managed to cram smoosh and shove nearly every single person/activity/baked good in without incident.
The trip was kicked off with our dear friends’ wedding, and we danced under the stars on a horse farm while munching on mini tacos and Polly Pocket sized margaritas housed in tiny Patron bottles. After a weekend full of feting, the car was loaded and aimed North towards the border, and we scanned the crackly FM stations while cruising through upstate New York searching for just the right songs to befit the lush rolling hillsides and endless decorously unkempt farms. A full days drive warranted cooling our jets for an evening at a darling bed and breakfast in Ithaca, and in the most touristy fashion possible we unabashedly chowed down on Buffalo wings at the restaurant that lays claim to starting that whole vinegar-spiked-hot-wing craze.
We drove into Canada and left the US behind for two glorious weeks; this was the fourth year I have accompanied James and his parents for a mid-Summer break at their lake house, and it has quickly become a yearly tradition that we eagerly look forward to as the days grow longer and July 4th approaches. The cabin is on an island – the kind where there are no cars and oh, you better choose your company wisely, as there is absolutely nowhere to hide once you arrive by boat. And, as such, there is nothing really pressing on the agenda save long and lazy afternoons filled with sunshine and novels and time spent in the kitchen tinkering with new recipes and keeping the fridge full for those who’ve worked up an appetite swimming laps around the island.
The island, as it always does, became a revolving door for guests of the best kind, and we had friends coming and going and coming again for the entire stretch. We grilled marinated salmon and juicy fat burgers and brined chicken at dusk every night, and as the sun set down behind the tall pines and cobalt waves gently lapping at the shores, we topped up glasses for embarassingly competitive games of Baggo (aka cornhole), ping pong, and Scrabble. James (rather impressively) competed in a sprint triathlon, and I did (impressive?) productive things like make apple pies stuffed with salted caramel (recipe to come), mushroom parmentier (ditto), and this here whole lemon tart.
By whole lemon tart I indeed mean whole – you chuck the whole dag-nab sucker in there, rind/pith/peel/flesh and all, after giving it a quick chop so it doesn’t gum up your processor and tossing in some sugar and butter because sugar and butter. I’m not kidding when I say this is a lazy tart; after that first step you simply tip in some cornstarch and four eggs, and then pour the batter into a par-baked pastry shell that I promise is easy to make from scratch too.
After a bake in the oven (just till set and barely golden) and a dusting of confectioner’s sugar, you’ve got a dessert whose looks are completely deceptive to just how indulgent and delectable it really is. Partly sweet, partly pucker-up-tart, this tart slices up perfectly and manages to be rich and decadent even though there isn’t a speck of chocolate or hint of fanciness. I am a long standing fan of anything lemon, but the true essence of lemon in this tart – undoubtably given by incorporating a whole, real, lemon – will win over even the non-lemon-obsessed.
Given that you’ve probably got most of the ingredients on hand (and who doesn’t have a lemon kicking around in their crisper? Except don’t use a grody one here – you’re eating it all so search for a good one), this is definitely my new go-to Summer dinner party dessert. It travels well, holds well in the fridge, and even makes a fine breakfast when paired with a cup of Earl Gray and a sunshiney deck.
Not that I’d know….
Whole (Lazy) Lemon Tart
Not adapted one bit from the amazing (New Yorker!) Deb over at Smitten Kitchen
Makes one 9″ tart
You’ll want a tart pan for this, which, if you don’t have one already, I’ll agree can sound fussy. But a 9″ tart pan is very useful, and in fact I made 3 tarts in this same pan during this vacation. Tarts….they’re addicting man. Get one for a great deal here.
1 partially baked 9-inch tart shell (I used Deb’s “Great Unshrinkable Tart Shell” which I love and adore), but you can use your favorite sweet tart shell if you’ve got one you’re partial to.
1 average-sized organic lemon (about 4 1/2 ounces; 130 grams), scrubbed
1 1/2 cups (300 grams) sugar
1 stick (4 ounces or 115 grams) unsalted butter, cut into chunks
4 large eggs
2 tablespoons (14 grams) cornstarch
1/4 teaspoon table salt
confectioner’s sugar, for dusting
blueberries, blackberries, or any berry of your choice to serve
freshly whipped cream, to serve
Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven 350°F (165´C). Place the partially baked tart shell on a baking sheet lined with foil to make clean up a snap.
Slice the lemon into thin (1/4″) wheels, and then cut those wheels in half. Remove any seeds, and toss the rounds — lemon flesh and peel and all — the sugar and chunks of butter into the container of a food processor. Process, scraping down the sides of the container as needed, until the lemon is thoroughly pureed. Add the eggs, cornstarch and salt and pulse until the batter is smooth.
Pour your lemon filling into the prepared tart shell. It will fill it completely, but if due to slight variances in tart pans, egg sizes, lemon sizes or crust thickness, you have too much, do not pour it past the top of of your crust or it will become difficult to unmold later. I found that my filling was exactly the right amount to fill the tart shell to the top without threatening to overflow.
Bake your tart for 35 to 40 minutes or until the filling is set. You can test this by bumping the pan a little; it should only jiggle slightly, and the top should be a very light golden brown.
Let the tart cool completely on rack, and then carefully unmold the tart from the pan. Dust the top of the cake with confectioner’s sugar – I find that using a sieve will give the finest and prettiest dusting. Slice the tart into wedges, and dollop a soft pillow of whipped cream atop each slice. Serve with berries on the side, if desired. The tart is delicious at room temperature or chilled, and keeps at least a couple of days in the fridge with no ill effects.