Lucky I have a nice recipe on hand to post here (the tasty blueberry lemon tart promised a few posts back) because otherwise this would degenerate into a pissy rant full of real estate lust and free-form lower-life-form snuffling. Partly it's the weird gloomy cold weather (I know, I know, last week it was a bitchfest about the heat. Never satisfied....), partly it's the pile of not-very-exciting, not terribly renumerative work I'm plowing through right now, and partly it's the choppy lopsided too-short haircut that the otherwise swell Jessica at Beehive gave me last week. But mostly it was seeing a lovely, gorgeous, wonderful apartment for sale in my building--in fact, right across the hall. For $459,000. For a one-bedroom.
I wanted that apartment. I wanted the apple green dining room and lemon yellow living room with its high ceilings and Victorian detailing and massive bookshelves, the bedroom with more bookshelves and French doors and the bathroom with the clawfoot tub.
I know, however, that spending half-a-MILLION dollars for 800 square feet of space (and no garden!) is NOT NORMAL, even if I had it to spend, ha ha. When E. and I were tooling around Maine a few years ago, we kept finding listings for lovely quaint houses with ponds and waterfalls and barns that between us, we could have bought for CASH. Of course, we'd have then been in rural Maine, with perhaps limited career opportunities, and no chance of going off to Europe for E's graduate degree, etc., etc. But then again, maybe we'd be married and having clambakes and raising a couple of little New England kids named Nathaniel and Eziekiel by now. Sigh.
Instead, my plants are getting thrashed in the chilly winds and not-enough-sunlight on my tiny fire escape, growing scrawny and starved-looking as they strain towards the indifferent sun. Advice? Anyone? I know there's still great art and music and philosophy out there, that excellent painting of Joan of Arc in the Met and the smell of hot coffee first thing in the morning, but jesus, if someone wanted to kiss me these days I'd probably pay him.
But since it's better to bake than to burn, here's the lemon tart recipe. And if you've got a sweetheart, real estate, or money in your mattress, count yourself lucky.
NOTE: All the whining above is a bad introduction to a really fantastic tart. Having wrestled mightily with various lemon curd recipes, I have to say that this version is boss. I made this tart for my aunt's big 70th-birthday party and it was a big hit all around. My 7-year-old nephew, who loves to suck on those plastic lemon-juice thingies, was particularly enamored of it. But the grownups liked it too.
The filling and crust for this tart can be prepared ahead of time. To keep the crust crunchy, assemble as close to serving time as possible. You can also make the lemon filling recipe by itself, to serve with fresh scones or biscuits at teatime. The crust is made like a sugar cookie, and is sturdier and crunchier than a regular pastry crust—it’s very tasty and a good choice for those intimidated by the usual pastry routine.
1/2 cup lemon juice
grated zest of 1/2 a lemon
1/3 cup sugar
2 egg yolks
6 TB butter
Heat lemon juice, butter, and 1/2 the sugar to a simmer, whisk for a minute, then remove from heat. Using a mixer, beat eggs, yolk and rest of the sugar until thick, pale and doubled in volume—mixture should form a ribbon when beaters are lifted. Slowly add hot juice and zest while beating and beat for 3 minutes until fluffy. Put back in pan and cook over low heat, whisking constantly, for a few minutes until thickened. Let cool and chill until needed.
Crust (this makes enough for two crusts--refrigerate or freeze what you don't use)
14 TB butter (1 3/4 sticks)
2/3 cup confectioner’s sugar
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp vanilla
1 3/4 cup flour
2 tb ground almonds or pistachios
Beat butter and sugar. Add egg, salt, and vanilla, and beat well. Stir in flour and almonds. Chill well. Press into tart pan with removable bottom. Bake at 350 until golden brown (you may need to cover edges with foil to keep from browning too fast). Let cool.
1 pint blueberries, rinsed and dried well
Red currant or beach-plum jelly, or apricot jam
To make glaze, heat jam or jelly until melted and runny. Add 1 TB water. Just before serving, spread lemon filling over tart. Top with blueberries. Brush with glaze. If not serving right away, refrigerate until serving.
OK, six good things from today:
1. Meatball-parmesan sandwich, on Sullivan St. Bakery pizza bianca, at Frankie's 457 (Court St at 3rd St, Carroll Gardens)
2. A free Bloody Mary (sans vodka, as requested) from the cute bartender, above.
3. Amazing, almost-black hollyhocks growing along Clinton St, their silky flowers filled with golden pollen like magic fairy dust
4. Canning five jars of homemade strawberry-rhubarb jam this morning, and finally boiling down and re-canning last winter's too-runny orange marmalade
5. Six p.m. sunshine!
6. Shuna's happy pie post, on Eggbeater, here.