Tag Archives: fresh lemons

Meyer Lemon and Blackberry Chiffon Pie

Meyer Lemon and Blackberry Chiffon Pie

In the months before my youngest was born, my mother suggested to my husband and I that she live with us to care for the baby after I returned to work.  We’d been looking for a larger house since my two older boys were on the verge of their teen years, and adding a third child meant room to stretch would be important for us all.  She knew I wasn’t looking forward to leaving the baby with a caregiver, and was growing tired of her own job, the hours it required, and the physical pain it caused her.  My husband is a far more easy going person than I could ever be, so he agreed and we changed the focus of our search to a home with four or five bedrooms instead of three.

We happened on to the perfect house one day by misreading the directions I’d written down.  An open house was just concluding and the realtors were preparing to leave.  We thought it looked perfect from the outside, but as soon as we entered — all heading in different directions — we were convinced.  It had only one owner in its 40 year history and was unique in so many ways.  Tucked into a hillside on a half acre shaped like a slice of pie, it faced east and overlooked the mature trees in the valley.  The back property hadn’t been cared for in years, but was a wealth of possibilities;  apricot, plum, tangerine, orange, grapefruit, loquat, and nut trees filled the space. It was perfect.

The year we moved in, the winter rains were especially heavy.  Slowly, the parched hillside turned green and bulbs planted years before began to push through layers of fallen leaves.  Sprigs of grape vines and berry bushes also appeared.  Saturday mornings before sunrise, the baby would wake earlier than I wanted, but it allowed us both some time alone.  With a bottle in his hands and coffee in one of mine, we’d walk up the hill in the early quiet of the day to see what new surprise we might find, finally growing after so many years of neglect. I loved that house.

Our trees often produced more than we could enjoy, so after freezer jam had been made, berries frozen, juice made, and sweets baked, we’d pack it up and set it down by the street with a “Free” sign.  It rarely took long for passers by to stop and help themselves to the produce, emptying the buckets we’d carry back up the hill to fill again.

Now, I have to depend on the market for most of what we used to give away, but I have learned recently of many organizations involved in gleaning urban fruit for a variety of purposes.  Whether it’s to gather and donate to those in need, or pluck and enjoy to keep it from rotting on the ground, interest in urban fruit foraging is gathering momentum as we all begin to think more responsibly about food.

I was gifted a big bag of Meyer lemons not too long ago, so had to pair them with the blackberries showing up at the market.  The berries will never compare with those we picked on our hill, but until I find them growing wild in San Diego, I’ll have to be tolerant — or do without.

But then, there is this pie…

76/365:  Blackberries

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Pasta with Clams in a Lemon Wine Broth

I grew up eating very simple meals that were repeated often in the course of a month. It was good food, but never complicated, and very little seafood was prepared — that is except for the flounder my mother purchased in somewhat thin, brick-like frozen packages.  The flounder was thawed, the fillets pulled apart, then floured and fried.  It wasn’t an unpleasant meal, it just wasn’t anything special and I rarely looked forward to those meals.  It must have made an impression on me, because I don’t believe I’ve ever fried flounder for my family.  Not that I have anything against flounder; I’m just aware of so many more possibilities with respect to seafood.  I also believe the choices are more abundant for the home cook which makes cooking and eating far more pleasurable than ever before.

My boys have grown up trying just about everything imaginable — especially my youngest, now 15.  That is most likely because I’m not afraid to try new types of cuisine, new flavors, and trust that if a recipe has been published, it has at least a fighting chance of being “good.”

Many summers ago, my husband, youngest son and I traveled up the California coast to Monterey, one of our favorite places.  Along the trip, we stopped in Santa Barbara for the day, and had lunch at a pleasant Italian restaurant.  Surprisingly, my son, who must have been only eight at the time ordered mussels.  I do remember that they sounded delicious with garlic, white wine, and basil being a few of the ingredients, but I’d never made mussels before.  And to my knowledge, we’d not ordered them in a restaurant with my son along.  So, order we did!  He truly enjoyed them, and we enjoyed watching him eat them.  No sooner than we’d arrived in Monterey, he ordered more, and to our continued surprise, made comments about liking the mussels he’d ordered in Santa Barbara more.

To some extent, I’d like to take some credit for this.  Only one of us has serious food allergies, so meal time at our house has always been an adventure, and clearly my boys (and husband) have grown from the experience.

After returning home from our vacation, I began to look around for recipes to emulate the dishes my son had tried.  There was just something about cooking my own shell fish I wasn’t too comfortable about.  Maybe admonishment from experts on freshness, and concerns about resulting illness could have been a factor.  Possibly, but not nearly as much as walking past the local chain grocer’s “fish” counter and smelling the pungent odor of ammonia mixed with fish clearly anything but fresh was more of a deterrent.  And the selection?  Pathetic if at all existent, and not something I’d consider.  Ever.  Completely disgusting.  Truly fresh fish rarely smells fishy.

That was about the time I discovered Whole Foods and sea food that was refreshingly sans the fishy odor.  I then found a recipe that is probably the one I’ve made more than any other recipe (remember I have that problem of rarely making a recipe more than once — ever):  Spaghetti with Fresh Clams, Parsley, and Lemon.  I found it in an issue of Bon Appetit I still have and cherish — one of the issues that focuses on a particular region’s food, and in the case of this recipe, the citrus from the isle of Capri off the coast of Italy.  And wouldn’t I absolutely love to travel there some day…*sigh*  I have served it in enormous platters at parties to the oohs and ahs of guests, as a main dish with pasta, as the original recipe calls for, and as a starter to a nice dinner.  I’ve used mussels — black and green lip, which are completely gorgeous, by the way — a variety of clams, and a mixture of both.  I’ve used basil instead of parsley, added chopped tomatoes, and dolloped goat’s cheese to sharpen the broth.  Any way this recipe has been made has delivered very pleasing results.  If given a choice, my husband prefers clams, and my son, mussels.  I don’t care, because both are excellent as long as I have a thick chunk of bread to soak up the broth remaining in my bowl.
So the days of avoiding fish at the chain market and denying ourselves a meal of delicious seafood are over.  Not too far from our house, El Pescador sells fresh seafood.  It’s a small store packed with mouth-watering possibilities. It’s also a restaurant, and from the looks of the menu, one that serves quite tasty fare. I’ve not been there often, but have discovered that if I purchase my clams there, I won’t fill my basket with the other lovely items that find their way onto my shopping bill at Whole Foods.  So I’ve added another trip, but it’s worth it, because El Pescador sells lovely, fresh seafood.  Perfect for summertime.

The original recipe  for this Pasta with Clams in a Lemon Wine Broth is linked above.  I’ve included my revisions in the recipe below.

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