Monday, March 22, 2010
Spring in L.A.
When spring arrives in L.A., it's subtle. We don't have a thaw, we don't see blades of grass popping out from hardened, snow-weary soil, or whatever the typical signs of spring are in other parts of the country. We just sense a change. I know it's here when tiny green leaves start appearing on a few of the trees in our yard, when I can smell flowers in the air, when I can wear a skirt without my opaque tights (despite my pitifully untanned legs.) Another sure sign of spring: really amazing strawberries. I bought a basket of them at the farmer's market last Saturday, and my daughter proceeded to slurp up most of them sitting in her stroller before we made it to the car. So bright and juicy and sweet. Looking at her face covered in strawberry juice, smiling wide, and saying, "More, mama!" Well, that's just springtime, people.
The handwritten recipe card is a bit cryptic. For instance, nowhere does it say exactly how many Nilla Wafer cookies you are supposed to use. Or what size pie dish, or whether or not it's greased. And the card is written as a narrative, not with a list of ingredients at the top like recipes in cookbooks, but with the ingredients and their amounts included in the instructions...which are pretty funny in themselves. But I'm finding this is often the case with my mother's recipes and it makes it that much for fun...
Icebox Lemon Pie (why the Icebox, don't know...)
Make vanilla wafer crust (Nilla Wafers). Crush until fine cookies—mix in pie pan (glass) with 5 Tbsp melted butter. Press down in bottom of pan. Insert whole wafers around the edge, pressing bottom edge into bottom crust.
1 14 oz. can Eagle Brand Milk
4 eggs yolks, beaten
1/2 cup lemon juice (I used 3/4 cup thinking more would be better, but it's a bit too tart even for me)
Mix above items well. Put in saucepan and cook over medium heat over low heat (huh??); stirring constantly about 10 minutes. Finely crush vanilla wafers and sprinkle over crust. Bake about 15 minutes. Or make meringue. Beat 4 eggs whits, 1/2 tsp cream of tartar at high speed. Gradually add 1/3 cup sugar a little at a time. Beat until stiff peaks form. Pour over filling, sealing around edges. Bake at 325 about 20-25 minutes until golden brown.
I love making meringue. It's like a science experiment watching 4 egg whites turn into this billowy pile of white foam 4 times the original size. I prefer to put it in a piping bag and make these cool little mounds that brown on the top. I then dusted it with grated lemon peel and some of the wafer crumbs.
Except for the fact that I would have made the crust a bit thicker (because it is really a delicious crust) and the mouth-puckering tartness that caused even Olivia to rethink a second bite, I think I replicated the traditional pie pretty well. Plus it was satisfying using an ingredient that we grew in the backyard...foreshadowing great things to come from our Driveway Garden.