Happy New Year everyone!! I hope you have had a good Holiday period and have transitioned peacefully into the new year. We most certainly did, and I am happy to say that not one firecracker or firework exploded in the vicinity of our place to scare my puppies on New Year’s Eve.
My furry kids and I are now happily ensconced in our new studio cottage among the Napa vineyards, and have been here since last Sunday. Once everything is organized and tidy, I will take photos and show you our new digs. The cottage is surrounded by a lovely garden, with also a creek just behind the building where bay and oak trees grow. This means of course that the Boyz have discovered…. squirrels!!! Such fun!
Last night we also discovered something else: how absolutely disgusting skunk spray can be. Somehow a skunk got itself underneath the cottage, just below the bathroom, and must have been attacked by a raccoon or possum in order to screech and spray in defense. OMD! If you have never experienced getting skunked, it is the most revolting, acrid, intense stench I have ever smelled. And for someone with a super fine nose like me, the whole thing was almost unbearable. Thank goodness it was outside and none of us were directly involved. The delights of country life on da Mainland!
Wild life adventures aside, I am so thrilled to be back on the blog, and I hope you are enjoying my special feature on my beloved islands laid out all over the home page. I will soon be adding new articles on Hawai’i as well, as I have yet to share with you about my trip from last October. But because of the current abundance of citrus, not to mention the heavy rains brought by El Niño keeping us indoors, I thought I would start the year off by sending you into the kitchen with a recipe using delicious, juicy, fragrant Meyer lemons.
This recipe was inspired by one I saw some months ago on the Instagram feed of Il Cucchiaio d’Argento (the Silver Spoon) – which is a classic cookbook that gets regularly updated and the one that I grew up with as a child in Italy. I like lemon bars, but I also find them a little intense because of the richness of lemon curd. I liked the idea of adding ricotta cheese as it would change the texture and make for a more delicate flavor, so I took my recipe for lemon bars and modified it to suit the addition of ricotta, then tweaked it again. I don’t know about you, but I have been modifying and tweaking most of my old dessert recipes. For as wonderful as they are, they no longer suit my palate of today, not as they were anyway. The main tendency is to reduce the amount of sugar, and I know I am not alone in this.
MEYER LEMON & RICOTTA SQUARES
yield: 1 9 x 12 inch ca. rectangular baking pan
for the pastry base:
- 120 gr. (4.2 oz. / about 1 stick) frozen butter, grated + plus a little extra at room temperature for greasing the pan
- 150 gr. (5.3 oz.) flour + extra for the work surface
- 50 gr. (1.7 oz.) powder sugar
- pinch of salt
- 1 Tablespoon cold water as needed
for the lemon-ricotta topping:
- 330 gr. (11.6 oz.) fresh ricotta cheese, at room temperature
- 200 gr. (7 oz.) sugar
- 5 eggs, at room temperature
- 4 Tablespoons flour
- grated peel of 2 lemons
- 140 ml. (4.7 fl. oz. – just a little over half a cup) lemon juice (2 medium lemons)
- core of 1 vanilla bean
- pinch of salt
- powder sugar for decorating
Step 1 – In a medium prepping bowl, quickly work flour, sugar, salt and grated frozen butter together till the mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Then add a little of the iced water as needed till it holds together. Shape the pastry into an elongated “ball” and flatten a little, then wrap and place it in the refrigerator for about 20 minutes.
Step 3 – Reduce the oven temperature to 320°F/160°C.
Whisk together the eggs and sugar with a mixer until light and fluffy. Add the core of the vanilla bean, then the ricotta and blend. Add the flour and then the lemon peel. Lastly, add the lemon juice. Pour the resulting cream on top of the cooled pastry base. Bake for about 30 minutes or until set without coloring. Cool completely on a rack, then store covered in the refrigerator for a minimum of 2 hours.
Step 4 – Cut into squares or rectangles, cleaning the knife’s blade after each cut, as the ricotta-lemon creamy top will crumble a little. Dust with powder sugar just before serving.
The powder sugar will vanish very quickly, so do not get frustrated like I did when trying to take pics as fast as possible before having to dust with more sugar.
Let me know how you like these bars. I enjoy both traditional lemon bars, and these with ricotta. There is another recipe for lemon-bar-style cookies that I really love. A friend in Marin makes them, so I will ask if she is up for a little baking while I photograph and taste samples. Afterwards, I will share the recipe, of course.
And because I could not wait to style my photos with a couple of little treasures I had found, I thought I would share them here. Don’t you just love Portmeirion? I found this beautiful teapot + cup set on sale at one of my favorite stores, David M. Brian (their Greenbrae location), and could not resist. On the same day, I also found those lovely artistic measuring spoons by Ganz you see below. There was a whole selection in different styles and it was hard to choose, but in the end the Bee Happy ones won.
Just so you know, I am only sharing about these finds because I love them, and thought you might, too. This post is not sponsored in any way.
I hope you have enjoyed the recipe and my little treasures. If you bake the bars, let me know how you like them.
I wish you a wonderful weekend, and, most of all, a year that will see the realization of your heart’s deepest yearnings.