Friday, June 12, 2009

Ton Ten Recipes: Frozen Lemon Mousse

Le Dejeuner des Canotiers, Auguste Renoir

This wonderful recipe for dessert comes from James Beard’s Theory and Practice of Good Cooking. Yes, it is slightly sinful: The main ingredients are butter, eggs, sugar, and cream. But it is a virtually fail-proof and transportingly delicious end to any meal, in virtually any season. I have paired it with many a Christmas dinner, and served it successfully at the end of an informal summer lunch (like the pleasant gathering shown above) of poached chicken and vegetables with tuna sauce.

Perhaps best of all if you are considering it for a holiday menu: It can be made for weeks in advance, and stashed away in the freezer. The recipe can easily be doubled if you are having a crowd.

The only kitchen equipment required for this recipe is a citrus grater. It is based on lemon curd, and many recipes call for making the curd in a double-boiler. I have found that, with careful attention, the curd can be made in a thick-bottomed saucepan.

Ingredients8 ounces unsalted butter
Grated rind of a large lemon
Juice of three large lemons
1 ½ cups sugar
¼ teaspoon of sale.
3 egg yolks
3 whole eggs
1 cup cream

Melt the butter in the saucepan over moderate heat. Whisk in the rind, lemon juice, sugar, and salt. Beat together the eggs and egg yolks and whisk in.

Cook, stirring, until mixture is thick, glossy and coats the side of a spoon. Cool to room temperature.

Beat the cream to soft peaks. Fold whipped cream in curd, stirring gently. When cream and curd and thoroughly combined, transfer to a metal mold. Freeze for six hours before serving.

This dessert is delicious with raspberry sauce. The lemon mousse may also be poured into and frozen in individual custard cups, chocolate cups (available at some specialty stores), or cookie baskets. Individual servings can be sprinkled with chocolate shavings or garnished with a twist of candied orange peel .

Mailboxes on the Mountain

Here are just a few of the quaint creations I pass by every day on my commute up the mountain to work.

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Friday, June 5, 2009

More Marvels of Mycology

This lovely little mushroom, which I found nestled between the roots of a Black Locust tree in my front yard, pentagonized itself in preparation for releasing the spores from its gills.

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From the Weed Patch at My Office

As I walk, as I walk
The universe is walking with me
In beauty, it walks before me
In beauty, it walks behind me
In beauty, it walks above me.
Beauty is on every side.
As I walk, I walk with Beauty.
--Traditional Navajo prayer

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Top Ten Recipes: Vegetable Soup

This vegetable soup is on the list of my ten favorite recipes of all times. It is inexpensive, easy-to-make, freezable, and delicious.

It is also forgiving: It’s practically impossible to undercook or overcook it. In fact, each kettle-full has a slightly different flavor and texture, depending on how many times you stir it as it’s bubbling away on your stove top, and other—probably uncalculable—factors.

It can be dressed up with a swirl or two of sour cream, sprinkled with grated Pecorino Romano cheese, and augmented with just about any vegetable or meat leftovers you happen to have in your refrigerator.

This recipe makes a batch that feeds a family of four for dinner (with bread and a salad on the side) for two nights, usually with a ladle or two remaining for brown bag lunches at the office.

1 large onion, diced
1 large red pepper diced
3-4 tablespoons olive oil
4 medium potatoes, peeled and cubed
2 28-ounce cans vegetarian baked beans
1 28-ounce can diced tomatoes
1 28-ounce can crushed tomatoes
8 ounces fresh, frozen, or canned corn
1 tablespoon thyme
Ground black pepper to taste

In large soup pot over medium heat, sauté onion and peppers in olive oil until soft.

While onion and peppers are sautéing, microwave diced potatoes in microwave safe bowl in ¾ cup of water until fork tender. This takes as long as 8 minutes, depending on the type and consistency of the potatoes you choose for the soup. Stir and fork-test potatoes as you are microwaving, approximately every 2 minutes.

Add beans, tomatoes, and approximately 28 ounces (one of the bean-cans full) of water. Bring to a slow boil.

Stir and reduce temperature to low. Simmer for 3-4 hours, stirring occasionally. Adjust temperature until you are certain that soup is not sticking to the bottom of the pot.

Add potatoes, corn, thyme, and pepper. Simmer until corn and potatoes are hot, or until you would like to serve.


Add diced celery, carrots, or other vegetables to the pepper and onion sauté.
Add leftover diced chicken, ham, or beef with the potatoes and corn.
Add a minced jalapeno pepper for zest.
Substitute canned navy or cannellini beans for a sugar-free soup.