I've been tethered to my desk for the last couple of weeks - trying to finish up a photo project.
My deadline was Monday - I made it! Now I can wander back into blog land and play.
It is going to hit the 80 degree mark here this week. Sorry, I know that's cruel to those still dealing with frigid temps. My new lemon tree is filled with blossoms and close enough to fill my living spaces up with the most intoxicating fragrance when the doors are open - which is most of the time. My tree doesn't have any lemons yet - but I was in Tucson recently to see a sweet friend and she gifted me with a large quantity of organic lemons from her tree. I'm nearly out of the Limoncello that I made last year. Time to start a new batch with these perfect little lemons. I've already used some of the zest to make Lemon Ricotta Hotcakes for Sunday Brunch, Lemon Tarts and took some Lemonade to Jain's Beach Party.

Lemon Ricotta Hotcakes

6 large eggs, separated
1 1/2 cups ricotta cheese
1/2 cup melted butter, cooled
1/2 cup all purpose flour
4 tbls sugar
1/2 tsp salt
6 tbls lemon zest
confectioners' sugar
1 cup fresh blackberries
Mix egg yolks, ricotta cheese and butter in a large bowl. Set aside. combine flour, sugar, salt and 2 tablespoons lemon zest in a bowl. Slowly add dry ingredients to the egg mixture and mix well. Set aside. beat egg whites in a bowl with an electric mixer until firm peaks form. carefully fold egg whites into batter.
Lightly grease a griddle or non stick pan and place over medium heat for one minute. Ladle about 1/4 cup batter on griddle for each cake. cook cakes for several minutes on each side until golden. Serve with a sprinkling of confectioners' sugar, remaining lemon zest and blackberries.

8 organic lemons
1 quart alcohol - 90%
14 ounces sugar
1 quart bottled still water
mint leaves

Zest the lemons and combine the zest and the alcohol in a large glass container with a tight lid.
Place it in a cool place and let it sit for around three weeks - I leave mine quite a bit longer. Gently shake a few times a week. The zest will lose color and the alcohol will be infused with it. When you feel it to be the appropriate time - prepare a simple syrup of the sugar, mint and water. Simmer and stir the sugar and water until the sugar has dissolved. Add the mint leaves and let steep. Let cool. Add the alcohol and syrup together and strain. Bottle in your favorite pretty bottles, Cost Plus World Market has a good selection. Let the Limoncello sit in the bottle for a few days. Serve very cold - I keep mine in the freezer.
Lemon Tarts

1 1/4 cups all purpose flour
3 tablespoons sugar
Kosher salt
8 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, diced
1/4 cup ice water

Combine the flour, sugar and 1/2 teaspoon salt in a bowl and place in the freezer for 30 minutes. Put flour mixture in the bowl of a food processor fitted with a steel blade. Add the butter and pulse about 10 times until the butter is in small bits. Add the ice water and process until the dough comes together. dump on a well floured board and form into a disc. Wrap in plastic and chill for at least 30 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees
Roll out the dough and fit into a 9 inch tart pan with removable sides. Don't stretch the dough when placing it in the pan or it will shrink during baking. cut off the excess by rolling the pin across the top of the pan. Line the tart shell with a piece of buttered aluminum foil, butter side down, and fill it with dried beans or rice. bake for 10 minutes. Remove the beans and foil and prick the bottom of the shell all over with a fork to allow the steam to escape. bake for another 15 to 20 minutes, until lightly browned. Set aside to cool.

Lemon Filling

1/4 pound unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 1/2 cups sugar
4 extra large eggs
3 extra large egg yolks
1/4 cup finely grated lemon zest
1/2 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
1/8 teaspoon kosher salt

Cream the butter and sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment for 1 minute. On low speed, add the eggs and add yolks one at a time, and then add the lemon zest, lemon juice and salt. Don't worry; it will look curdled.

Pour the mixture into a small saucepan and cook over medium low heat for 8 to 10 minutes, until thick, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon. Whisk briskly when it starts to thicken and cook over low heat for a minute or two, whisking constantly. Don't allow it to boil! it will be 175 degrees on an instant read thermometer. Pour into a bowl and cool to room temperature.

When cooled, spread the lemon filling in the cooled tart shell. I top mine with a little whipped cream.

Adapted from the Barefoot Contessa Cookbook ~ Barefoot In Paris
Photography By: Ryannan Bryer de Hickman
Copyright: Sotto Il Monte Vineyards