Here we are in California, the “Sunshine State”. California is abundant in agriculture, about one-third of all the vegetables and two-thirds of all the fruits and nuts consumed in the US are grown here.
The only official state foods for California are the state nuts (Almonds, Pecans, Pistachios and Walnuts).
California is known for citrus, due to the perfect climate for growing the fruit in many parts of the state. We are partial to the Meyer lemon and have selected a Meyer Lemon Tart for California.
Meyer Lemons are a variant of the lemon, slightly sweeter and less acidic than the more common Eureka lemon.
The Meyer lemon is native to China and is a cross between a citron and a mandarin. It was one of the many fruits introduced to the US in the early 1900s by a group of “Food Explorers” in the USDA. Frank Meyer was one of these explorers and the lemon was named after him.
There is an excellent book, The Food Explorer by Daniel Stone, about the adventures of these explorers.
Our version is inspired by a recipe from Chez Panisse, one of the first restaurants to feature this wonderful fruit.
Meyer Lemon Tart
Single-crust 9 inch tart shell (recipe below, or use a premade one if desired)
1/2 c sugar
4 egg yolks
2 T Meyer lemon zest
1 c Meyer lemon juice (from 5-6 lemons)
1/2 t cornstarch
3/4 c butter (12 T or 1 1/2 sticks)
Preheat oven to 350 F.
Blind bake the pie crust:
Prick the bottom of the crust with a fork to prevent the crust from bubbling up during baking. Crinkle a sheet of parchment paper or aluminum foil over the crust and add pie weights or dried beans. Bake the crust at 350 F for 15 minutes. Remove beans or weights and bake for 15 minutes more. The crust should be a light golden brown. Set crust aside while you make the filling.
For the filling:
In a medium saucepan, whisk together eggs, egg yolks and sugar. Add lemon juice, lemon zest and cornstarch. Cook over medium low heat until mixture coats the back of a spoon, about 5-8 minutes.
Remove from heat and add in butter, 2 T at a time, mixing well after each addition.
Strain mixture through a sieve to remove lemon zest and any cooked egg bits. Pour strained mixture into cooled tart shell and bake at 350 F for 20 minutes, until middle of tart is set and lightly browned.
Single Crust for a 9-inch tart
1/2 c butter, chilled and cut into small (ie 1/2 inch) pieces.
1 1/4 c flour
1/2 t salt
3-5 T ice water (amount depends on humdiity)
In the bowl of a food processor, pulse flour and salt. Add butter and mix until the butter is the size of peas (this takes about 20-30 pulses). With the food processor running, add the water through the feed tube 1 T at a time until the dough comes together. Flatten to a disk, wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for 30 minutes.
Roll dough out to a 1/4 inch thick and fit into tart pan. Chill crust for 15 minutes.
Inspired by a recipe from Lindsey Shere in “Chez Panisse Desserts”