Last month, two of my neighbors passed away, one here in Carson City who was 89 and another down in the desert who was only 59. They both passed suddenly and sometimes I think there is something to be said for not knowing that you're on your way out. I wonder if they would have chosen to do things different in their last days. I think not. I think one might wish for the most ordinary of days doing whatever it is that gives you joy.
I was baking thumbprint cookies for the gathering for Liz, our neighbor in Sky Valley, and got to thinking about the thumbprints we leave as wives, mothers, friends and neighbors. At the service for Liz the pastor talked about the inheritance she left others, her friendship, kindness, and generosity.
Down in our little trailer park in the desert meals seem to be simpler, not as much space to cook. And because the weather is nice, most of the time there is lots of outdoor cooking and shared meals.
Potlucks happen on a weekly basis. I don't know what happened to potlucks at home, I think they went to the same place canning jars retired to, our past. It used to be that cooks would bring their best dishes to a potluck and they were known for that dish and sometimes were requested to bring it. Nowadays lots of those dishes are brought already prepared or picked up and made by a third party.
Here on Minnesota Street our neighbor's daughter had an estate sale and I confess I bought a few treasures I couldn't pass up. The best find was another recipe box for a buck and a set of Tupperware measuring cups that will go in our motor home. I love estate sales because it's like recycling little pieces of a person's life.
If I had to pick my favorite dessert, this next recipe I'm going to share with you would be it. It's a Lemon Tart. The recipe might seem hard at first but if you do it in stages it's easier. I like to use Meyer Lemons but you can use Eureka. Give this a try for Mother's Day or any special occasion. Come to think of it just give it a try for no occasion at all.
For the crust: Makes one 11-inch pastry shell
• 11Ú4 cup flour
• 1 T. sugar
• 1Ú4 tsp. salt
• 1Ú2 tsp. grated lemon peel
• 1Ú2 cup plus 2 T. unsalted butter, not too cold
• 1 T. plus 1 tsp. water
• 1Ú2 tsp. vanilla
Mix the flour, sugar, salt and lemon peel. If you use salted butter, omit the salt. Cut the butter into 1Ú2 inch slices and work it into the flour mixture with your hands or a pastry blender until the butter is in mostly cornmeal pieces and the mixture is beginning to hold together. Combine the water and vanilla and work it into the flour mixture just until the pastry is blended and it will hold together if you press it. Gather it into a ball and wrap it in plastic. Let it rest for 30 minutes so the flour will absorb the moisture more completely. Press the pastry into a 11-inch tart pan (a tart pan is one of those pans with a removable side). Make sure that you have a layer of even thickness over the bottom and up the sides or some parts will bake too much before others are cooked. Before baking set the shell in the freezer for 30 minutes. Bake in a preheated 375 oven for about 25 minutes or until the shell is lightly golden brown. You don't need to fill the shell with beans before baking because the pastry doesn't shrink. Cool.
• 4 lemons
• 4 eggs
• 6 yolks
• 2Ú3 sugar
• 1Ú4 cup milk
• 1Ú2 tsp. cornstarch
• 6 T. unsalted butter
• 6 T. salted butter
Grate the peel from 2 of the lemons into a small noncorroding bowl, juice all the lemons and strain the juice into the same bowl, straining out the seeds but forcing as much pulp as possible through the strainer. Beat the eggs and the egg yolks with the sugar in a noncorroding saucepan until just mixed. Mix the cornstarch into the milk and add that to the egg mixture. Next stir in the juice mixture, it will look a bit curdled but will smooth out later. Cut the butter into pieces and add to the mixture. Cook the mixture over low to medium heat, stirring constantly, until it coats the spoon and is the thickness of crème anglaise. Let stand 5 minutes to thicken. This filling recipe is doubled so don't put all of it into the tart. Save a little.
At this point you can pour the filling into a container and keep it in the refrigerator for a week. In any case it is best to chill the filling before making a tart but you may also pour it into the pre-baked tart shell without chilling it. I make my filling the day before and bake it the next day. Preheat your oven to 375. Fill the slightly cooled pre-baked shell with the filling and bake for 25 to 30 minutes. I always keep out some of the filling to mix with heavy whipped cream and garnish each slice with a dollop and a twist of lemon and sprig of mint. This filling can also be used as a cake filling or for a lemon meringue pie.
• Linda Marrone has lived in Carson City since 1973, and with her husband, Ralph, formerly operated Marrone's Restaurant in Carson City and Somethin's Cookin' Catering.