Tuesday, July 19, 2011

For Mary

I’m not much of a Facebook fan. Mostly I find it to be a huge time drain, and quite frankly, I’d rather be doing something else with my time. But it has allowed me to reconnect with friends from the past, and for that I can’t fault it too much.

A few months ago I was contacted by my college roommate, Mary. It turns out she has not only stayed ‘active’ in theater over the years, but she’s actually a professor of theatre arts at the college she and I attended. It had been almost 20 years since we’d seen each other (which must mean we’re both pushing… 30, right??), and it turns out she was going to be in Oregon for two weeks for a seminar and staying just up the road. In the end, we only ended up being able to visit for a day, but we had a great time catching up.

Naturally, I wanted to feed her, but I also wanted to spend more time visiting than cooking, so I put together a meal that I could make mainly in advance of her arrival. I revisited the recipe for the Parmesan Biscotti to go along with a basic salad (which did include herbed and marinated mozzarella balls and heirloom tomatoes) and a shrimp bisque, which actually turned into a chicken bisque when I found out that Mary doesn’t like shrimp (Ok, so how often would we have had the opportunity in college to eat shrimp for me to know that already, right???)! I also put together a very fast pasta primavera, and no, I didn’t take pictures of anything because, well, I was VISITING!

I did want to highlight some Oregon produce, fresh from the farmers’ market (thus the primavera) as well as a local wine to go along with everything, but rather than go with a strawberry based dessert (Oregon strawberries are pretty spectacular), I decided to use blackberries instead. And if we had been having a normal summer here, I could have harvested them from just beyond my fence line. But we’ve had such cool and dreary weather, that everything seems to be behind, and so I ended up buying some.

I ran across this recipe in my latest issue of Bon Appétit and just tweaked it a bit. For one, I didn’t want to use a regular pie crust. For expediency’s sake, I decided to go with ladyfingers instead. And the lime curd mixture really did not need the called for gelatin, so that was out. I also added some zest to pump up the volume on the lime curd a bit. And while I’m not normally a fan of either fruit OR citrus, I thought this made for a very nice, light summer dessert. It will definitely go into my repertoire of things to make when it’s too hot out to cook.

If it ever actually is, anyway.

This one’s for you, Mary.

Deconstructed Lime and Blackberry ‘Tart’

1 cup fresh lime juice, plus the zest from one lime
3 eggs, separated
3 whole eggs
¾ cup sugar
½ cup (1 stick butter), softened
¾ cup whipping cream

1 cup red wine (I used a syrah)
½ cup sugar
1 pint fresh blackberries

1 package ladyfingers

3 egg whites (from above)
1 cup sugar
2 Tbs corn syrup
¼ cup water
Pinch of salt

To prepare the lime curd, combine lime juice and zest, 3 whole eggs, 3 egg yolks and sugar in a medium bowl. Place over a double boiler on the stove and turn to medium heat. Stir frequently until mixture begins to thicken (water should be at a simmer the entire time), about 15 minutes. Remove from heat and whisk in butter, one tablespoon at a time. Cover surface with plastic wrap to keep from forming a skin and allow to come to room temperature. Refrigerate until cool.

In a small saucepan, combine wine and sugar. Bring to a gentle simmer and allow to reduce by half. Remove from heat and allow to cool. Add blackberries and stir to coat. Refrigerate until ready to use.

When lime curd has cooled completely, whip the whipping cream until it is at the firm peak stage. Carefully fold into lime curd and return to fridge.

Just before assembly, beat 3 egg whites in mixer until soft peaks form. Turn off mixer and allow eggs to stand while making sugar syrup.

In a small saucepan, combine sugar, corn syrup, salt and water. Heat pan at medium-low just until sugar dissolves. Attach a candy thermometer and increase heat to medium-high. Bring mixture to a boil and continue to cook without stirring, only occasionally swirling the pan until temperature reaches 238º. Remove from heat.

Begin whipping egg whites at medium high speed once again and slowly begin to pour the sugar syrup into the eggs. Beat until meringue is firm and glossy. Continue beating about another 4 minutes to cool the meringue.

To assemble: lay about 3 ladyfingers on a plate and spoon lime curd over the top. Top the curd with the blackberry compote and then spoon the meringue over the top of this. Using a kitchen torch, brown the meringue until golden**.

** If you don’t have a kitchen torch, you could place the individual servings on a lined baking sheet and broil for a few seconds until meringue is toasted. Then transfer to individual plates and refrigerate about 30 minutes before serving.

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