Meyer Lemon Pielets with Brown Butter Press-In Cookie Crust

I have my own Meyer lemon tree but I did have to purchase the lemons for this special treat- this year anyway. My tree is very sparse at the moment- and not that happy. ūüė¶ Hopefully it will have many lemons sometime in the future! Anyway, I love individual desserts. These were silky, creamy and delicious.

This recipe was adapted from The Book on Pie: Everything You Need to Know to Bake Perfect Pies by Erin Jeanne McDowell. Such a beautiful and informational book. The lemon zest and juice can be replaced with Key lime zest and juice for a lime version. Alternate press-in cookie crust variations are included below as well. Very nice.

Yield: 12 mini pies

For the Brown Butter Press-In Cookie Crust:

  • 113g / 4 oz / 8 T unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 50 g / 1/4 cup / 4 T granulated sugar
  • 21 g / 1 large egg yolk
  • 5 g / 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 210 g / 1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 g / 1/2 tsp fine sea salt
  • 15 g / 1 T water

For the Pielets:

  • 1 recipe Brown Butter Press-In Cookie Crust (ingredients above)
  • 99g / 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • grated zest of 1 Meyer lemon
  • 288g / 1 1/4 cups heavy cream
  • 60g / 1/4 cup freshly squeezed Meyer lemon juice
  • 2g / 1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract
  • 1g / 1/4 tsp fine sea salt
  • lightly sweetened freshly whipped cream, for serving, optional
  • Meyer lemon zest, for garnish, optional

To Make the Crusts:

  1. Melt the butter in a medium saucepan over medium heat.
  2. Reduce the heat to low and cook, stirring occasionally, until the butter begins to simmer and foam, the milk solids turn brown, and the butter smells toasty, about 10 minutes.
  3. Cool the butter to room temperature before proceeding with the recipe.
  4. In the bowl of a stand mixer with the paddle attachment, combine the cooled brown butter and sugar on medium-low speed until smooth, 2 to 3 minutes.
  5. Add the egg yolk and vanilla and mix on medium speed to combine. Scrape the bowl well.
  6. Add the flour and salt and mix on low-speed until fully incorporated, 45 seconds to 1 minute.
  7. Add the water and mix just until the dough is smooth, about 1 minute more.
  8. Preheat the oven to 350¬įF/175¬įC with a rack in the center.
  9. Grease the cavities of a muffin pan with nonstick spray.
  10. Divide the dough into 12 even rations in each cavity. (I used cookie scoops of various sizes.)
  11. Use your fingers to press the dough evenly over the bottom and up the sides of each cavity.
  12. Use a small fork or tip of a paring knife to dock the dough all over.
  13. Chill in the refrigerator for 15 to 20 minutes.
  14. Bake the crusts until they are lightly golden at the edges and appear set all over, 14 to 18 minutes. If the dough puffs up during baking, prick it with a fork when you remove the crusts from the oven so it lies flat again.
  15. Cool crusts completely. Then, use an offset spatula to gently unfold the cooled crusts onto a baking sheet. They should release easily. (I found that rotating them helped release them from the pan- the top edges of my crusts did crumble a bit though- still delicious.)

To Make the Filling and Serve:

  1. In a small pot, rub the sugar and the lemon zest together to combine.
  2. Add the cream and heat over medium-low heat, whisking, to dissolve the sugar. Do NOT let the cream come to a boil.
  3. Transfer the mixture to a large container with a pour spout and whisk in the lime juice, vanilla, and salt.
  4. Carefully pour the custard into the cooled crusts, filling each one just over 3/4 full.
  5. Cover loosely with plastic wrap and refrigerate until the filling is set, at least 2 hours (or up to 24 hours). Keep refrigerated until ready to serve.
  6. Top with lightly sweetened whipped cream and garnish with additional zest, if desired, and serve.

Notes:

  • The pielets can be made up to 24 hours ahead and kept refrigerated in an airtight container.
  • Any leftover filling can be chilled in a ramekin for a baker’s treat. ūüôā

Alternate Press-In Crusts:

To Make an Oatmeal Press-In Cookie Crust: Replace the brown butter with room temperature butter. Replace the granulated sugar with 53 g / 1/4 cup packed light brown sugar. Replace 30 g / 1/4 cup of the flour with 74 g / 3/4 cup rolled oats.

To Make a Coconut Press-In Cookie Crust: Replace the brown butter with room temperature butter. Replace the granulated sugar with 53 g / 1/4 cup packed light brown sugar. Add 50 g / 2/3 cup toasted unsweetened shredded coconut with the flour.

Browned Butter Crumb Cake Muffins

These New York crumb cake muffins have a few qualities that elevate them a step above others. They not only incorporate lemon zest and browned butter, they also have additional crunchy crumbs hidden inside each muffin. Genius.

The recipe was adapted from The New York Times, contributed by Melissa Clark. I used the zest of an entire lemon and modified the baking time for a convection oven. They were quite large but baked perfectly in a standard muffin tin. Great.

Yield: 12 muffins

For the Topping:

  • 1/2 cup/115 grams unsalted butter (1 stick)
  • 1 1/3¬†cups/165 grams all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup/110 grams dark brown sugar, packed
  • 1 1/2¬†teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground allspice or cardamom
  • 1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt

For the Batter:

  • 3/4 cup/180 milliliters sour cream
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1/4 teaspoon almond extract
  • 1/2 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest (I used the zest of 1 large lemon)
  • 1 1/2¬†cups/190 grams all-purpose flour
  • 2/3 cup/135 grams granulated sugar
  • 3/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 3/4 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
  • 1/2 cup/115 grams unsalted butter (1 stick), cut into 1-inch slices and softened
  1. Heat oven to 375 degrees, preferably on convection, and line a 12-cup muffin tin with liners.

Make the Topping:

  1. In a medium saucepan over medium-high heat, melt butter, then let it simmer until the foam on top falls to the bottom of the pot and turns brown, 4 to 6 minutes. It will smell nutty when it’s ready. Immediately pour butter into a small bowl to keep it from getting any browner, and let cool for 5 minutes.
  2. Whisk together flour, sugar, spices and salt in a medium bowl.
  3. Pour in the brown butter and stir, pinching the mixture together, until crumbs form. Set aside.

Make the Batter:

  1. Whisk together sour cream, eggs, vanilla, almond extract and lemon zest in a mixing bowl.
  2. In a large bowl, using a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment or a handheld electric mixer, mix together flour, sugar, baking soda, baking powder and salt until combined, about 10 seconds.
  3. Add softened butter and beat for 20 seconds to work it into the flour.
  4. Add egg mixture and continue beating until the batter is very smooth, about 1 minute.
  5. Sprinkle a scant tablespoon of the topping crumbs into the bottom of each muffin liner. (I used a cookie scoop.)
  6. Spoon the batter on top of the crumbs, dividing it evenly. (I used a large cookie scoop- plus a little bit extra- per well.
  7. Bake muffins for 5 minutes to firm up the tops so the crumbs don’t sink into the batter. Remove muffin pan from the oven and lower heat to 350 degrees.
  8. Sprinkle the remaining crumbs on top of each muffin. (I used 1 tablespoon per muffin, rationed with a cookie scoop.)
  9. Continue to bake until the muffins are springy to the touch and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean, 17 on convection or up to 30 minutes longer.
  10. Cool on a rack for 15 minutes.
  11. Use an offset spatula or butter knife to lift the muffins out of the pan. Finish cooling muffins on a rack.

One-Pan Orzo with Spinach & Feta

This is another weeknight dish loaded with spinach. I also incorporated my CSA turnip greens. It features many of the flavors of my favorite Greek dishes, including lemon zest, feta, and fresh herbs. I used parsley from my CSA share as well.

This recipe was adapted from The New York Times, contributed by Melissa Clark. It was very quick and easy to prepare. I used a large, wide enameled cast iron pot. I increased the amount of garlic and modified the cooking method.

Yield: 3 to 4 servings

  • 2¬†tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 4¬†large scallions, trimmed and thinly sliced, divided
  • 2 to 4¬†large garlic cloves, minced
  • 8¬†ounces baby spinach leaves (8 cups), coarsely chopped (I used 6oz spinach and 2oz turnip greens)
  • 1¬†teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 3/4¬†cups chicken or vegetable stock
  • 1¬†cup orzo
  • 1¬†teaspoon finely grated lemon zest (from 1 lemon)
  • 3/4¬†cup crumbled feta (3 ounces), plus more for garnish
  • 1/2¬†cup frozen peas, thawed
  • 1¬†cup fresh dill, or use parsley or cilantro, chopped
  1. Heat a 10-inch skillet over medium, then melt butter, 30 seconds to 1 minute. (I used a large and wide enameled cast iron pot.)
  2. Stir in about three-quarters of the scallions (saving some of the green parts for garnish) and garlic, and cook until softened, stirring frequently, about 1 to 2 minutes.
  3. Stir in stock and bring to a simmer.
  4. Stir in orzo, lemon zest and 1/2 teaspoon salt. Cover and simmer over medium-low heat until orzo is nearly cooked through and most of the liquid is absorbed, 8 to 10 minutes, stirring once or twice.
  5. Stir in spinach (and other greens, if using), adding in batches if it doesn’t all fit in the pan at once, and 1/2 teaspoon salt. Continue to cook, stirring occasionally, until spinach is wilted, about 2 minutes.
  6. Stir in cheese, peas, and dill/parsley/cilantro, cover the pan, and cook for another 1 minute, to finish cooking and warm the peas.
  7. To serve, sprinkle with more cheese and the reserved scallions.

Baked Chicken & Spinach Meatballs

Everyone loves meatballs- right? These were a healthyish version packed with cilantro and spinach. We ate them over rice topped with dollops of garlicky Greek yogurt sauce with roasted cauliflower on the side. Yum.

My husband was gifted a meat grinder for Christmas. ūüôā This was the first time he used it, grinding chicken thighs for these full-flavored meatballs. He plans to make burgers with blended meats next. Fancy!

This recipe was adapted from The New York Times, contributed by David Tanis. I prepared the seasoned meat about 6 hours ahead of time but it can even sit overnight in the refrigerator so that the meat absorbs the seasoning. I baked the meatballs (in the same oven as the roasted cauliflower) and used red pepper flakes instead of a serrano chile. I also added a yogurt sauce for serving. Fantastic.

Yield: Serves 4 to 6

For the Meatballs:

  • 1 pound spinach, washed
  • 1 1/2¬†pounds ground chicken (I used 5 freshly ground chicken thighs- medium grind)
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon lemon zest (I used the zest from 1/2 lemon)
  • pinch of ground cayenne
  • pinch of freshly ground nutmeg
  • 1/2 teaspoon crushed fennel seeds (I crushed them using a mortar and pestle)
  • pinch of ground cinnamon
  • 1 cup roughly chopped cilantro leaves and tender stems, plus more for garnish
  • 1 serrano chile, with seeds, finely chopped or 1/4 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 1 cup soft fresh bread crumbs, from about 4 slices of crustless sandwich bread (I used 3 slices of Trader Joe’s Tuscan Pane, crusts removed, pulsed in a food processor)
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream, half-and-half, milk, or ricotta cheese
  • extra-virgin olive oil, for the baking sheet
  • lemon wedges, for serving
  • cooked rice, for serving (I served the meatballs over white Basmati rice)
  • yogurt sauce (or store-bought tzatziki), for serving (see below)

For the Sauce:

  • 1 cup Greek yogurt (I used 2%)
  • pinch of ground cumin
  • 1 garlic clove, finely grated or pressed through a garlic press
  • fresh dill, cilantro or parsley, finely minced, to taste
  • freshly squeezed lemon juice, to taste
  • coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper
  1. Blanch the spinach: Plunge leaves a handful at a time into a pot of boiling water. Leave just long enough to wilt, about 30 seconds, scoop out with a spider or slotted spoon and drain in a colander and cool under running water. Repeat until all of the spinach is wilted.
  2. Remove and squeeze wilted leaves into a ball. I used a potato ricer and squeezed out the excess liquid in batches.
  3. Using a large knife, roughly chop spinach on a cutting board ‚ÄĒ you should have about 2 cups.
  4. Squeeze into a ball again to remove excess water. (This may be done several hours or up to a day in advance and refrigerated.) Again, I used a potato ricer and removed the excess liquid in batches.
  5. If freshly grinding the chicken, grind into a large bowl using the medium grinding disc.
  6. Combine the ground chicken, salt, pepper, lemon zest, cayenne, nutmeg, fennel seeds, cinnamon, spinach, cilantro, chile (or red pepper flakes), egg, bread crumbs and cream in a large bowl. Using your clean hands, knead everything together, mixing well. Leave to absorb seasoning for 15 minutes or overnight. (I refrigerated it for about 6 hours.)
  7. Make the sauce: Combine all of the ingredients and refrigerate for flavors to develop.
  8. Test for seasoning: Take a small amount and flatten into a thin patty. Quickly cook in a small skillet, about 1 minute per side. Taste, then adjust the mixture’s seasoning if necessary.
  9. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees, preferably on convection roast.
  10. Using a large ice cream scoop or spoon, form 19 to 24 rough balls and place on a large plate. (The mixture will be soft.)
  11. Using a brush, coat a rimmed baking sheet with olive oil.
  12. Lightly form the meatballs and position them on the prepared baking sheet. Along the long side of the pan, I placed them in rows of 5. (I had 19 meatballs.)
  13. Bake meatballs until well browned underneath, about 15 minutes. Using a stiff metal spatula, pry up and turn over meatballs (they may want to stick a bit). Bake until browned on second side and an instant-read thermometer inserted into the center of each one registers at least 160¬į, about 4 to 5 minutes more.
  14. Serve over rice garnished with chopped cilantro, if desired. Serve with sauce (or tzatziki) and lemon wedges.

Vanilla Bean Spritz Cookies

Classic butter cookies are my husband’s absolute favorite, so I had to try this vanilla bean version. He loved them! They are dangerously easy to make too.

This recipe was adapted from The New York Times, contributed by Melissa Clark. I used the ground cinnamon option, varied the shapes, and topped the cookies with festive colored sugars prior to baking.

Because the cookies are quite fragile, the original recipe suggests making them into sandwich cookies, filled with chocolate, Nutella, or thick jam, to increase their stability for shipping. We ate them as is!

Yield: about 4 dozen cookies
  • 1 cup/225 grams unsalted butter (2 sticks), preferably cultured, softened
  • 1/2 cup/100 grams granulated sugar
  • 1/4 cup/55 grams light brown sugar
  • 1 large egg, at room temperature
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla bean paste (or use 1 tablespoon vanilla extract)
  • 1 teaspoon grated lemon zest or orange zest, 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon or cardamom, OR 1/2 teaspoon almond extract, optional
  • 2 1/4¬†cups/290 grams all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
  • decorative sugar, for sprinkling, optional
  1. Heat oven to 350 degrees, preferably on convection.
  2. Using an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment or a handheld electric mixer, beat butter and sugars on medium speed until light and fluffy, 2 to 3 minutes.
  3. Add the egg, vanilla and the zest, spices or almond extract (if using), and mix until well combined and smooth.
  4. Reduce speed to low, and gradually add flour and salt until just incorporated.
  5. Load dough into a cookie press. Following the directions that came with your cookie press (models can vary), push the dough onto ungreased baking sheets, leaving about 1/2 to 1 inch between cookies.
  6. Sprinkle cookies with decorative sugar.
  7. Bake until firm to touch and golden brown at edges, about 8 to 9 minutes, or longer (up to 17 minutes) depending upon the size of your cookie press.
  8. Transfer cookies onto a wire rack to cool completely.

Our festive 2020 “Gingerbread Mansion” (photo above). ūüôā

Marcella Hazan’s Sicilian-Style Swordfish

This was such an elegant, fresh, tasty, and quick-cooking dish. It is part of a recipe collection that Food and Wine published for their 40th anniversary titled “Food & Wine: Our 40 Best-Ever Recipes.”

The recipe was contributed to this special issue by Marcella Hazan. I modified the ratio, using less swordfish but the same amount of sauce. By serving the fish over a bed of rice, the rice absorbed all of the extra deliciousness.

Yield: Serves 3 to 4

  • 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 2 teaspoons table salt (I used coarse salt)
  • 2 teaspoons chopped fresh oregano or 1 teaspoon dried
  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 1/2 to 2 pounds swordfish steaks, cut 1/2 inch thick (I cut 1-inch thick steaks in half)
  1. Light a grill or preheat the broiler.
  2. Make the Sauce: In a small bowl, mix the lemon juice with the salt until the salt dissolves. (I used coarse salt- which took quite a while to dissolve.) Stir in the oregano. Slowly whisk in the olive oil and season generously with pepper.
  3. Grill the swordfish steaks over high heat (as close to the heat as possible), turning once, until cooked through, about 3 minutes per side (6 minutes total).
  4. Transfer the fish to a platter. (I covered the platter with a bed of rice first.)
  5. Prick each fish steak in several places with a fork to allow the sauce to penetrate. Using a spoon, beat the sauce, then drizzle it over the fish (and rice, if desired). Serve at once.

Corn & Ricotta Sformato

Now that it’s the very very tail end of corn season, I have a couple fresh corn recipes to share. I hope I’m not too late. :/ We ate this cheesy dish for dinner but it would be wonderful for brunch as well. I also think that it could be prepared with frozen corn (gasp!) and served as a holiday side dish.

This recipe was adapted from The New York Times, contributed by Clare de Boer. I used Kosher salt and modified the proportions. I also modified the baking dish (to have more crispy crust) and baking time. The lemony basil oil topping added a bright contrast to the indulgent and delicious dish.

Yield: Serves 4 to 6

  • 2¬†tablespoons unsalted butter, plus more for the pan
  • 6¬†ears fresh corn, kernels removed (about 5 cups kernels), cobs discarded
  • 2¬†tsp coarse salt, plus more to taste
  • 6¬†tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
  • 2¬†cups fresh whole milk ricotta
  • 1/2¬†cup heavy cream
  • 2¬†tablespoons cr√®me fra√ģche or sour cream
  • 1 1/2¬†cups grated Parmesan, divided (I used Parmigiano-Reggiano)
  • 4¬†large eggs, whites and yolks separated
  • coarsely ground black pepper
  • 1/3¬†packed cup fresh basil leaves (about 20 leaves)
  • 2¬†tablespoons fresh lemon juice (from 1/2 lemon)
  1. In a large skillet, melt 2 tablespoons butter over medium heat.
  2. Add the corn kernels and 1 teaspoon of salt and cook, stirring occasionally, until corn is just beginning to soften, about 5 minutes.
  3. Transfer half the kernels to a food processor and purée with 2 tablespoons olive oil. (I used a Vitamix.)
  4. Transfer the corn kernels and puréed corn to a large bowl and let cool, about 30 minutes.
  5. Heat the oven to 450 degrees, preferably on convection.
  6. When the corn mixture has cooled, add the ricotta, heavy cream, cr√®me fra√ģche/sour cream, 1 cup Parmesan and the remaining 1 teaspoon of salt; season to taste with more salt, if desired.
  7. Using a hand mixer or a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, whip the egg whites to stiff peaks on high speed, 1 to 2 minutes.
  8. Stir the yolks into the ricotta mixture until combined then gently fold in the whites, working delicately to avoid deflating.
  9. Rub the sides and crannies of a 6-by-10-inch oval or 8-by-8-inch square (or similar 2-inch-deep) baking dish with a knob of butter. (I used a 8×10-inch oval dish.) Add 2 to 3 tablespoons grated Parmesan, knocking it around the baking dish to coat the entire thing, then follow with a few grinds of pepper.
  10. Pour the ricotta batter into the dish. Bake for 25 minutes and then remove from oven and top with another 3 tablespoons Parmesan.  Continue to bake until the cheese has browned and the sformata has set in the center, about 5 additional minutes, a total of 30 to 40 minutes.
  11. Using a mortar and pestle, grind the basil with the lemon juice and a pinch of salt, then stir in the remaining 1/4 cup oil.
  12. Just before serving, top the warm sformata with the remaining grated Parmesan, drizzle with basil oil and serve.

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