Sometimes, life happens around us. We are there too, experiencing the life but not participating in it, other than observing. I am looking out at the Arizona sky, from Grandpa’s backyard. The wind is whipping warmly across my face and I am an observer rather than a participant. For this moment I am zoning out the requirements of life. The cooking temperatures or timing. The dry or moist feel of my skin. The lizard that may be crawling toward my leg. I am unaware of the savory waft of smells from the kitchen. These smells, I set in motion. Subconsciously, they add to this moment of zen. This zen that is now. I breathe in the air. Through my nose. I release through my mouth. Thanks to Cristina for teaching me this life altering move. All of the noise is shut out…momentarily (seconds, or minutes or for whatever you make time). I actually see the beauty, not just hear about the beauty. I feel it on my skin. I smell it wildly tickling my nose.
As quickly as I allow it to begin, it ends. And off I go to make sure the kitchen is not burning. Make sure the food is happy. The people are eager to partake.
Lemon curd cake
This cake is dense and slightly dry without a nice spread of lemon curd on top. It is based off of a rosemary olive oil cake that I love to make, but I changed it up to try and utilize as many lemons as I could from my Grandfather’s plentiful lemon trees. There is little fat or sweetener in the cake, but the curd makes up for the lack of fat with its wealth of egg yolk and butter. It makes for a light dessert, a “zen moment” mid-day snack, or a prelude to brunch.
The lemon curd will keep a week or two, covered tightly, in the fridge (if you don’t use it all up on the cake). You can add fresh strawberries, cooked into the center, or leave it plain. Either way, it is best warmed, then sliced and spread with a healthy layer of the lemon curd, which unless short of time, you hopefully have made
1/2 cup reserved lemon curd batter – recipe follows
2 TB honey
1 egg yolk
2 oz goat cheese (chèvre)
1/3 cup milk (or yogurt)
5 egg whites (4 reserved from the lemon curd and 1 from this cake)
1/4 cup olive oil
1 TB chopped fresh rosemary
2 cups all purpose flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp kosher salt
10 strawberries, diced (optional)
Lemon curd for glazing
Combine the uncooked lemon curd, honey and egg yolk. It is best to use an electric mixer for several minutes.
Add the milk and goat cheese. Continue to beat the mixture until creamy; a few minutes more.
In a separate bowl, beat the egg whites until stiff. Stir into the yolk mixture then add the olive oil and blend with the mixer until well combined. Stir in the rosemary.
In a separate bowl, combine the dry ingredients.
Add the dry ingredients to the wet, slowly mixing it in 1/2 cup at a time.
For a moister cake, you can add in the cooked lemon curd, reserving 1/4 cup to spread on the top and on the cut slices for serving.
Butter 1 loaf pan (or two mini-loaf pans) and pour in the batter. If using the strawberries, pour in half the batter then add the berries. Pour in the remaining batter.
Cook for approximately 30 minutes at 350 or until a toothpick poked in the center comes away clean.
Brush some lemon curd over the top and let cook another 5 minutes.
Let it cool slightly in the pan. Turn it onto a rack.
Serve warm, sliced, slathered with lemon curd…and perhaps, a cup of tea or a crisp glass of Albariño.
House-made lemon curd is far more delicious than that from a jar. I like mine on the tart side so I use just enough honey to keep me from crinkling my nose. Leftovers can be used to spread over your morning toast instead of jam, or an english muffin and a slice of ham.
I used freshly-picked lemons from the lemon trees outside my Grandpa’s house in Tucson during our Easter weekend with my Mom. They were large and juicy and produced thick zest. Oh how I wish I could grow a lemon tree!
4 egg yolks (whites reserved for cake above or another use)
1/4 cup honey
The juice of 4 large lemons (approximately 1/2 cup) plus their zest
1 stick of butter
Bring some water to simmer in the bottom of a double boiler; it should not be able to touch the saucepan that sits on top.
Using an electric mixer, in the saucepan of the double boiler (or in a stainless steel bowl), beat the egg yolk and honey together until smooth.
Add in the lemon juice and zest, continuing to mix.
Set the saucepan over the simmering water in it’s counter-pan and whisk briskly until the batter becomes pale yellow and smoothly cooked, 6-8 minutes.
Turn off the heat and whisk in the butter, 1 TB at a time, as if making a butter sauce.
Transfer to a clean jar or container and cover tightly once cooled.
It’s all zen until you come across a little prick…