Friday, February 29, 2008

The challenge

by Lisa

So, today I face a challenge. No, it's not Can I Eat More Bananas Than My Housemates? (The checker at TJ's asked me, when scanning the second batch of 12 bananas in a month, "Do you live in a zoo?" Last time I checked, no. )

No, it's a lot more serious than that. Steph emailed me yesterday morning, providing the stats on our blog. Exactly three posts every month since we launched - no standard deviation on that mean. She said, "You have two days to post. Go!" (Thank goodness for leap years.)

It didn't take long to figure what I could write about. Because most of my brain space these last few days has been occupied by another challenge I had been facing. I was asked to cook for a dinner party for seven. Not a difficult task, under usual circumstances. But when I thought about those in attendance, I realized one of them had given up meat for Lent. Not a big deal, I frequently cook vegetarian. But add to that two lactose intolerants (one of whom also gave up sweets for Lent) and another who is deathly allergic to nuts, and there go a few good stand-bys like quiche, quiche, and quiche. Also, having recently read Smitten Kitchen's gracious post, I wanted to make Rachael Ray's You Won't Be Single For Long Vodka Cream Sauce. (My two cents' on RR is, well, simply this: Steph's amazing chocolate pudding is from her.) In any case, alas - vodka cream sauce contains, well, cream. Another no-go for the attendees.

So, anyway, the dinner. I was excited about this one. On the menu was a fellow foodblogger's Accidental Chickpea Soup, a Great Big Salad with Tomatoes and Cucumbers, Dessert Stolen From Someone Who Stole It From Cesar. For appetizers, crusty bread with all kinds of yummy tapenades: roasted garlic in warmed olive oil, parsley pesto but without almonds (it's official - I'm obsessed), sun-dried tomatoes, buttered mushrooms.

The dessert idea is so killer - figs and dates quartered and arranged in a flower pattern against white dishware with a dollop of lemon zest marscapone, drizzled with honey, garnished with an almond.

And, on a whim, I decided to use the lemon curd I made the night before (which I made for no other reason than just to make it), to make a lemon tart not unlike this one. For the curd itself, I used a hybrid of a few recipes I found, and I liked how it turned out - not too much sugar so that it's tart/sour enough to surprise you but not too sourface sour, if that makes sense. Maybe you'll just have to make it yourself. I think you'll like it, too.

Of course, getting to use my cake dome was really the highlight of it all. And the new pitcher. Oh, the new pitcher.

Two other things that made smile this week:

One. At Trader Joe's they were giving away balloons to the kids. I watched as what looked like a four-year-old girl tell her two-year-old brother, "Don't let go." As though the period at the end of her sentence were a cue, the little boy released his balloon just as she finished. The green balloon floated to the ceiling. I laughed out loud.

Two. On a more serious note, the other thing that made me smile this week was the rad sunset on Tuesday night. I think God uses these to remind me that He's in control. About a year-and-a-half ago I remember watching a sunset and sensing Him say to my heart that I don't lift a finger to make such a beautiful thing happen; can I not, therefore, trust Him to make a beautiful thing of all my life?

What two things made you smile/laugh this week?

(Thank you to my dear friend, David, for taking photographs tonight when I was without Elizabeth's point-and-shoot, the only camera with which I have any amount of familiarity.)

Here's a recipe for the tart; it's very flexible, so use your intuition and vary as you go!

Tart with chocolate and lemon curd

1 prebaked tart
a handful or two of semi-sweet chocolate chips

5 egg yolks plus 1 egg
1/2 cup lemon juice (~4-5 lemons)
zest from lemons (~1 tablespoon)
1/2 cup baker's sugar
5-8 tablespoons of butter

In a small saucepan, whisk together eggs, lemon juice, zest, and sugar. Heat on medium heat and continue to whisk constantly for about 8-10 minutes as it thickens. At some point, switch to a rubber spatula and continue to stir until it coats the back of the spatula, or you can run your finger through and it holds.

Remove from heat and stir in butter, a tablespoon at a time. Place saran wrap directly on surface to prevent skin from forming and refrigerate.

Place chocolate chips on tart. Place in warmed oven for a minute or so until chips begin to melt. (This works well when you've just baked the tart and the oven is already warm.) Remove and spread chips into a layer of chocolate. (I just used a butter knife; a spatula will do, too.) Refrigerate entire tart for a few minutes to cool.

Spread curd on top of tart with chocolate. Refrigerate some more. Garnish and serve!


Stephanie said...

that is a difficult question.

1) when unicycle's cookies ran together in the oven

2) when you pulled out the breyer's last night

Digsy said...

i saw that sunset too and i remember thinking it was so awesome i had to run up to the roof to see it.

1) stephie eats ice cream CONSTANTLY

2) smart alec's

Molly said...

1) Bowling a 145 (my highest score EVER!).

2) Enjoying the lack of negative degrees this week while taking a walk across the River in the snow.

Erin said...

1) getting invited to a jazz concert by my friend from class - this takes friendship out of the classroom and into real life!

2) ballet on wednesday: cindy and i looked ridiculous as we learned to "ballet run"

Erin said...

also, yesterday, I made the vodka sauce and belgian brownies that you cited. brownies = SO GOOD! they are gone! as for the vodka sauce...with a name like that, I had high expectations. it was pretty good, but I think that its name was a bit too haughty for the final product. but perhaps I did it wrong...

Chad said...

All I can say is "Yummmmmmmmmmmmmmm mascarpone."

1. Abram telling me about a crazy Russian girl in his class
2. coffeeeeeeeeeee

David E. said...

Thanks for posting the photos Lisa and for the shout-out. You rock!

1) Getting pulled over on my bike for running a STOP sign, only to hear the officer correct himself while he is admonishing me: "Do you recall that stop sign back there at the intersection you just weaved through--I mean wove through...?" Even the policemen in Berkeley are grammatically brilliant!

2)The professor of my English 118 class (on Milton) often replies during a student's comment with a fast-paced "yeah, yeah, yeah yeah yeah!" This week she was shaking here head furiously during a comment and proceeded to say "I better stop nodding or I'll make myself dizzy."