Thursday, April 23, 2009

Meyer Lemon Bars

This year I was asked to bring dessert for the annual Easter feast. It took me days to decide what to make. I wanted something fun and spring-like. There would be kids there, so I didn't want anything too foofy or complicated. I mulled over the possibilities. Carrot cake? Strawberry shortcake? Rhubarb pie? Coconut Lime cupcakes? Oh, the dilemma. I debated so long that the day before Easter I still hadn't decided what to make. Fortunately while meandering through the produce aisle at the Co-op, inspiration suddenly struck in the form of a large pile of the most gorgeous Meyer lemons I'd ever seen. They were practically glowing as they called out to me, and there was no way I could pass them by. Lemon bars it would be.

I love lemon bars, and I can't imagine anyone who doesn't. They're fun, decadent and so pretty. Just like me, Heraldo.

The Ingredients:


2 sticks of butter at room temperature
1/2 cup of sugar
2 cups of flour
1/8 tsp. of salt


7 large eggs at room temperature
2 1/2 cups of sugar (Meyer lemons are sweet. If these were regular lemons, I'd use 3 cups)
1 cup of freshly squeezed Meyer lemon juice
the zest of about 2 lemons
1 cup of flour

Powdered sugar to dust on top.

Aren't these beautiful? A cross between a lemon and a sweet orange, Meyer lemons are less acidic, more fragrant and sweeter than a regular lemon. I could go on and on about them. How they make an amazing limoncello. How great they are preserved and used in a Moroccan lamb tagine. How they make the most delicious lemonade ever, but I won't today. Today it's all about the bar. Alright. Stop staring at my lemons and preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

To make the crust, cream the butter and sugar in a mixer until it's light and fluffy.

Mix the flour and the salt together and, with the mixer on low speed, add them gradually to the creamed butter and sugar until just barely mixed.

Dump the dough into a prepared 9" x 13" pan and press it with your hands to cover the pan evenly. Build a little edge around the sides.

Bake the crust for about 20 minutes.

While it's baking you can make the filling. First squeeze the lemons. Supposedly if you roll a lemon around with your palm on the counter for awhile, more juice will come out. I don't know if this is true or not, and I'm always too impatient to try it. I use one of these handy metal fruit squeezer things over a strainer. You can also just use your hands. If you do, be sure to squint up your eyes and make Incredible Hulk sound effects while you're squeezing. These lemons were so juicy it only took three to get a cup of juice.

Then grate some zest from 2 lemons - more if you like a zestier taste - and add it to the juice.

Whisk together the eggs, sugar, lemon juice and zest. Add the flour and continue mixing until it's well-combined. Check your crust. If it's a nice light brown color, take it out and set it on a wire rack.

Pour the filling over the crust and stick it back in the oven.

Bake for 30 to 40 minutes, or until the filling is set and no longer jiggly. Let it cool on a wire rack.

Now see in the upper left hand corner of the above picture where I almost dropped the entire pan of lemon bars and stuck my thumb in while trying to catch it? If you happen to do something similar, don't you worry one little bit. Your bars will be just fine because you'll be covering them with a lovely coating of powdered sugar. And powdered sugar, much like the heavy makeup on an unshaven drag queen, will hide a variety of sins.

After the bars cool to room temperature, sprinkle on the powdered sugar and cut them into squares. Arrange them on a fancy plate and throw on some extra lemon slices to make the whole thing look pretty and to hopefully distract your family from the fact that you procrastinated so long that you made the lemon bars on the same day as the dinner and were in such a hurry that you took them out of the oven too soon and the filling didn't set up all the way and so they'll probably have to eat them with a spoon.

And by the way, they still taste divine with a spoon. Or smeared on an inner thigh.


Tuesday, April 14, 2009

The Joy of Chinatown - guest post

The following is a guest post by my little brother Troy who moved to New York City about ten years ago. And who doesn't call his big sister often enough.

Troy and I share many things, and our mutual love of all things Chinatown is near the top of the list. Neither one of us can imagine being friends with anyone who doesn't appreciate the sights and sounds and smells and tastes of these little cities within cities.

One of my favorite memories of Troy is when we both lived in San Francisco in the early nineties. One Saturday night Troy was almost finished causing general mischief and consuming so much beer that I can feel my liver twitching just thinking about it. He was starving. If you've ever been drunk and famished at 2:30 a.m. in The City, you know that food options are few and far between at that time. As he weaved down the sidewalks grumbling and madly trying to find something - anything - to eat, he happened to find himself on a fairly deserted street in the middle of Chinatown. Most of the street was dark, but about 30 feet ahead of him was a bright light spilling out onto the sidewalk from a little shop. He walked closer, and just like a mirage in the desert, the glowing window appeared before him holding exactly what he had been yearning for: succulent, shiny Peking ducks hanging by their necks from the ceiling. He rushed through the door, slammed his money down, waited impatiently while the man behind the counter cut the string from his duck, ripped off a leg and took a gigantic bite. His eyes glazed over in ecstasy. There was nowhere to sit, but he didn't care. Mumbling a thank you through his full mouth to the shopkeeper, he headed back out into the night. Troy spent the next hour walking around San Francisco ravenously eating that duck, brown glaze dripping from his mouth and fingers.

But wait. In my bossy, eldest sibling kind of way I've forgotten that this is Troy's post, not mine. Anyway, here's what Troy sent me today. He had jury duty. In Chinatown, as luck would have it.

11:45 a.m. This is where I had lunch today. So dirty and so cheap! I knew I was in the right place when I walked in and was the only white guy there. I ordered chicken and stringbeans and some pork dumplings. I got beef with egg and broccoli. I didn't care and ate the whole thing.

12:30 p.m. Then on to this place for a quick beer (maybe 2) before heading back to jury duty. It was me, three Chinese guys, all somewhere between 75 and 300 years old, a Chinese hooker, and what I believe to be a homeless dude curled up in the corner. I made small talk with the hooker, but I don't think she really understood me. She seemed surprised when I left. Goddamn I love Chinatown.

Maybe I'll get picked for a trial and can hang out here for a couple more days!

3:00 p.m. Sadly, the story ends here. I am not part of a trial, and as soon as the copier is fixed, I will get a copy of my proof of service. Hopefully I'll be back in 6 years...

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Friday night mix

What do you get when you mix four bloggers, a barbeque dinner, a case of Great White, some leftover vicodin and two dozen eggs?


My favorite is the deviled egg. Happy Spring!