Some Finer Things of Life

A young professional resident of the Washington, DC metro area shares some of the finer things she encounters around her. The finer things in her life include a love of cooking and all things food as well as travel and adventure, be it local, regional, or further afield.

Monday, August 29, 2005

Lemon Inspiration

microwave lemon curd - a beautiful jewel-toned yellow

Coming out of my experience at L'Academie de Cuisine (see previous entry), I couldn't get beyond the wonderful reintroduction to lemon curd. This smooth and creamy lemon 'sauce' is a staple in many British households. It can be spread on scones, used as a filling for layered cakes, or can compliment fresh fruit with pound cakes, shortcakes, or angelfood cakes. Mix it with cream cheese and serve as a dip on a fruit tray or fill a pre-baked pie crust with the curd and top with a fluffy combination of sour cream and whipped cream.

While the traditional lemon curd recipe shared by L'Academie de Cuisine was not difficult or complicated, the microwave lemon curd recipe I came across a couple of days later was so easy I immediately had to try it. This recipe is from 'The Complete Book of Year-Round Small-Batch Preserving' by Ellie Topp and Margaret Howard.

Microwave Lemon Curd

2-3 lemons
1/4 cup butter

¾ cup granulated sugar
2 eggs

Finely grate thin outer rind of lemons. Squeeze lemons. Measure ½ cup lemon juice into a 4-cup microwavable container.

Stir in butter, rind, and sugar. Microwave, uncovered, on High for 1 ½ to 2 minutes, or until butter is melted and mixture is hot.

Beat eggs in another microwavable bowl. Gradually add hot lemon mixture to eggs, stirring constantly. Microwave this mixture on medium (50%) for 1 to 2 minutes or just until thickened, stirring every 30 seconds. Do not allow mixture to boil; mixture will thicken as it cools. Let cool. (If your eggs do become curdled because of overcooking, simply press through a sieve to remove bits of cooked egg.)

Pour curd into tightly sealed small container(s). Refrigerate up to 2 weeks or freeze for longer storage. (If you freeze, thaw overnight in refrigerator.)

Makes 1 2/3 cups.

(The instructor at L'Academie de Cuisine mentioned she makes different curds by replacing the zest and juice of the lemon with other citrus fruits, or omitting the zest and just using unsweetened juice to make black current or passionfruit curds. Definately something I intend trying.)

Cooking class - Now in Session

Ever wonder how to make your onion 'dice' more consistant? Or how to make the perfect bechamel sauce? If actual hands-on is not your type of cooking experience how about experiencing a Food Network type 'live show' where the cooks do the work and you (and any friends you take along) sample the results? The L'Academie de Cuisine's catalog of recreational cooking classes is comprised of many pages of small print, offering both the participation and demonstration style classes with just about any focus topic/food as you can imagine.

I recently took a Saturday afternoon to do just that, though the topic I chose was 'Canning and Preserving 101.' We, the audience, sat back while the experts educated us on the food safety and techniques associated with water bath canning and prepared chutneys, jams, conserves, curds, and pickles before our eyes. They started the class by quickly preparing a poundcake so that we would have a perfect platform on which to taste test the sweet spreads. (So thoughtful of them!)

L'Academie de Cuisine is located in Bethesda, walking distance from the Bethesda Metro Station and also has a facility in Gaithersburg. Definately a different way to spend a weekday evening or a weekend afternoon. Invite some friends and come prepared to eat!

Sunday, August 28, 2005

Kenilworth Aquatic Gardens

Today I discoved a great place for an afternoon tea! Okay - they don't have a cafe, but they have a few picnic tables for those wanting to pack and tote a snack.

The Kenilworth Aquatic Gardens were started in 1882 by a Civil War veteran. It borders the Anacostia River (in Northeast) and is a series of manmade ponds featuring different aquatic plant life as well as a boardwalk into the Kenilworth Marsh. A man with quite impressive photography equipment shared that mid-July is about the best time for a visit, when all of the lotus and lilies are in bloom. Walking along the dikes, we saw a myriad of birds, frogs, butterflies, and friendly insects as well as the pond plants. Another path takes visitors on a stroll along the Anacostia river.

A wonderful escape (and no entrance fee required) that I will definately be revisiting.