Since I did videos on Friday and missed E Friday it looks like things will just be random around here. I tried for regular things on regular days, but seem to stray rather consistently now. So, on to something new: a cooking post.
Down in San Diego B and I were Master Gardeners. This is a nationwide program implemented by the universities in each state where people are trained in gardening and then volunteer time to help others. We went through several months of school to learn all about how to garden in southern California, problems, pests, plants, fertilizer, watering, and lots of other things. At the time B had over three hundred roses in our back yard and I was playing around with setting up watering systems for commercial avocado groves. We became friends with many of the other Master Gardeners around the San Diego area, and found all of the amazing things that could grow there. People became experts in things they were interested in: one guy did guava trees, he had about two dozen varieties in his back yard; one woman did cherimoyas, she had several types (and they were really good!); another did bananas; B did roses and flowers, I did watering systems, and taught classes in drip irrigation. When we moved here to Vegas one of the first things we did was to find the Master Gardener group, and seek advice on what would grow around here. The recommendation was to plant things that normally grow in the desert and skip everything else. That ended up being pretty good advice, as the soil here is pretty poor, and the temperature range will either cook colder plants or freeze ones from warmer climates, and with only two or three inches of rain a year you will spend a lot of money watering other stuff.
One of the people we met was Leslie Doyle, who is known around town as the Tomato Lady, because of her love of growing tomatoes. She teaches classes in growing and has a yard just full of plants. One of the fruit trees that she has in her yard is a Meyer Lemon, and one Christmas she was giving away bags of ripe lemons. Meyer lemons are very juicy and a bit sweeter than ones in the store, the skin is thinner and they don’t ship as well or keep for very long off the tree, so you don’t usually find them in stores. But they grow well in Vegas and we’ll probably put a tree in ourselves.
When Leslie gave me a bag I proceeded to look for recipes in which to use them. I made lemon cake and assorted puddings, but what I really wanted to do was make pies. We used to hit Marie Calendar restaurants a lot, their specialty is pies, and when they first opened the only thing they served were pies. MC has since expanded into a full menu, but I always like their pies. I liked the lemon meringue, but I’m not much of a meringue guy and usually at that just to get at the lemony goodness underneath. So I searched the web for lemon pies. I usually start at the Food Network web site, as I like watching a lot of their shows, being partial to Sandra Lee and Rachael mainly because they cook things that are good and easy to make, and Alton because he is technical and even though some of his recipes are complicated all the ones I have tried are good. I also have several books from each of them. Anyway, the search brought up this recipe which provided a good starting point for me. You can make this from three juicy lemons, zesting them first then juicing. I used a third of the zest in each layer and all the juice in the first layer.
This recipe makes two pies, so start with two cooked pie shells. You can follow the web site recipe or your own to make the shells; I buy frozen Marie Calendar pie shells at our local supermarket. They come two in a pack and bake up in fifteen minutes, and my pastry capabilities don’t produce a significantly better crust. The rest of the pie is put in cold, so go ahead and bake to good crusts.
For the bottom layer:
1 ½ cups sugar
6 tablespoons cornstarch
¼ teaspoon salt
1 cup fresh lemon juice
3 egg yolks
2 tablespoons butter
1 ½ cups boiling water
1 teaspoon lemon zest (or whatever you get from one lemon)
In a sauce pan combine the sugar, cornstarch, salt, lemon juice and egg yolks. First do the dry stuff and mix well, then the juice and mix again, then the yolks. Use a whisk and make sure it is well combined. Then gradually stir in the boiling water; this tempers the yolks so you don’t end up with scrambled eggs. Add the butter, then put it on the stove over medium heat. Bring to a boil, stirring constantly and boil for two minutes. Remove from heat and stir in the zest. Let cool for 15 to 20 minutes and divide between the two shells. Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes for it to set before doing the second layer.
1 cup powdered sugar
8 0z. cream cheese softened
1 ½ cups milk (we use 2%)
2 packages instant lemon pudding
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon lemon extract
1 teaspoon lemon zest
Cream together sugar and cream cheese with spatula until smooth. Add milk and extracts and stir until well blended. Add pudding and beat with electric mixer for 2 minutes, then blend in 1 teaspoon lemon zest. Divide onto the two pies, pouring onto both, and refrigerate for 30 minutes to set. (Lemon extract optional, just adds some lemon flavor to layer)
1 cup powdered sugar
8 oz. cream cheese softened
16 oz Cool Whip (one container, we use extra creamy)
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 teaspoon lemon extract
1 teaspoon lemon zest
Cream together sugar and cream cheese with spatula until smooth. Add extracts and mix, then fold in the Cool Whip and lemon zest. Divide onto the two pies. (Lemon extract optional, just adds some lemon flavor to layer) Chill for four hours before serving to insure that everything is set. (We usually can’t wait, and cut a ragged piece right away, as shown in the photo)
I’ve been making these pies for several years now, and bringing them into work and to customers. Since the recipe makes two pies we usually try to give one away as the two of us don’t need quite that much sugar all at once.
Last month I went over to Leslie’s and picked two big bags of lemons. When I got home, besides making two pies, I zested all the lemons and then squeezed them all. I measured out one cup servings and put them into disposable plastic cups, put the cups upright into zip lock freezer bags and put them all in my freezer. This way I can just take out one cup, and scoop out some of the zest, and make a few pies whenever I want to.
I posted this as thanks to story teller and pie baker Blond Duck (even if she will not give out her special coconut pie recipe), go and see what she is cooking up. Another great cook is Clotilde, who makes some neat sounding stuff (and anyway I'm in love with France)
So, there is our first Cooking with Joe segment. Try the pies, they are fairly easy to make. The first layer is on the stove and must be stirred constantly, but the top two layers are easy to let kids make and put on, so it can be a family affair. The eating probably will be.