I have been keeping cool lately by following along here. Ambitious home cook that I am (and totally in denial of the hot weather), I figured while I was hanging out there on the Queen Mary 2, I would make David’s lime meringue tart. After all, unlike Paris, down here we have an almost unlimited supply of key limes, so we should be making such delicacies more often.

I knew mine would come out more rustic than the pastry chef’s (also, I don’t have a quaint Moroccan basket to bring it to my Parisian potluck picnic– sigh). But hey, I would like to see his piping technique with nothing but a snipped off corner of a sandwich bag filled with meringue.

My key lime zest had some larger pieces, and they show up here like dark flecs in an otherwise gold egg-yolk colored curd-like filling. If you ever order a lime dessert– especially key lime pie– know that if it is green, it has food coloring. Lime juice is not really green (or at least most pies don’t call for enough to make the color that of limeade), and so the only color should come from the other ingredients– zest, eggs, cream, etc. Eggs can vary in color from orange to yellow– David’s were probably fresher than mine, and therefore more orange.

Oh, my goodness this is a good tart. The bizarre recipe for the crust is a keeper– not to mention an entertaining blog story. I may never make tart crust any other way. And it doesn’t shrink. I have seen some crazy complicated methods for tart crust that doesn’t shrink, but this one is so simple, and backwards, and yet tastes perfect. It is flaky, but so tender. Which is what defines a good pate brisee, and yet tends to confound us all.

Flakiness requires a certain lengthening and structure in the gluten, and if overdone, the layers of the structure can become too long, and therefore strong, resulting in a tough crust. But on the other hand, a very tender crust can be unstable and crumbly, and not as flavorful due to overly homogenized ingredients. You are basically trying to do two opposite and not immediately observable things at once– create flakes and tenderness. I would like some scientific explanation for how this particular dough works without cold butter, but I wont let that stop me from enjoying the art of the tart in the meantime.

I quite liked the lesser amount of meringue, it makes the meringue special, not piled high like you find in diners. When I eat a pie with too much meringue, I always smell the strange cooked egg smell before tasting the sugar. This tart has no such smell because it is not in such a large quantity. Also, I wonder if the little extra work in his meringue instructions (heating it like candy before making it into stiff peaks) takes away this smell.

I pretty much followed David’s recipe in every way, except that I had a little less lime juice than what he called for (3/4 cup seemed like a lot) so I reduced it to 1/2 and made sure to reduce the sugar also. I added a little more zest, so it still had very good strong tart lime flavor. A few notes I would add to his directions:

1. When you are stirring the lime egg mixture on the stove, you don’t want it to burn, but if you keep the temp on low it will not thicken up. So the key is to be somewhere between low and medium and stir with a whisk like mad to prevent burning. It should take about 5-10 minutes.

2. When you heat the egg whites and sugar mixture on the pan of simmering water, and if you don’t have a candy thermometer handy, one sign it is hot enough is if it starts to get real foamy, but not boiling.

If you love lemon meringue pie or key lime pie, you will love this tart. It was perfect the day it was made, and not too bad the next day after chilling covered in the refrigerator.

But I will give you a recipe I use for an easy dinner full of veggies to eat before digging in to the tart au citron vert. We have purple hulled peas right now from Poteet, Texas, which are more like a bean, and kind of like black-eyed peas. I make them here with all the seasonal local veggies we had on hand this week. You can also make this with black-eyed peas, or white beans. But if your beans are canned and cooked, you wont need to do all the boiling.

I find that the peas need to boil for about 25-30 minutes, which is way too long for these nice fresh veggies. So, while they are going in one pot with spices and onions, I saute the veggies in another saute pan. Then I combine it all and garnish with a little parmesan.

I love cooking with these smaller onions I got at the farmers market– now I don’t have half an onion drying out in my fridge all the time. Two of these is equal to one of the huge ones you can get at the grocer. When chopping onions, they key is to be fast. If you aren’t very fast with a big knife, trim the ends and then slice them in half. Rinse the halves under cool water while peeling the outer skin. This rinse helps delay the onion tears.

Everything here was locally grown and very inexpensive. And, although it is excellent with corn bread, it really is a complete meal in one bowl. The peas are starchy enough you don’t need rice. You can omit the bacon, and the Serrano, though you might consider adding some soy sauce or a little vinegar to flavor it without these things.

Purple Hull Peas with Vegetables

2 tablespoons canola or olive oil

2 strips bacon, diced

2 cloves garlic, finely chopped

1 Serrano pepper, seeds removed, finely chopped

2 small onions, sliced

1 pound fresh purple hulled peas

1 tsp. salt

1 tsp. ground coriander

1 tsp. dried oregano

1/2 tsp. chili powder

1 pinch black pepper, to taste

1/2 cup white wine

4 cups water or stock

1 tablespoon unsalted butter

1 handful of organic Texas green beans, chopped into one inch pieces

1 zucchini, chopped into one inch chunks

2 small tomatoes, diced

Any other veggies you like– bell peppers are good, as is corn, spinach, collard greens, etc.

Saute the bacon in the oil on medium heat in a large sauce pan for a couple minutes. Add the garlic, Serrano, and stir to keep garlic from burning. Before the garlic browns, add the onions and stir (this will briefly lower the temp in the pan and keep things from browning). Then toss in the purple peas, spices, and wine, and stir for about 1 minute. Add the water or stock, and bring to a boil. Cover and let boil for about 15 minutes.

Meanwhile, melt the butter in a saute pan, and begin to cook the other veggies. If your pan is too small to cook them in one layer, cook them in batches, placing them in the final serving bowl after each is lightly browned. If you crowd them all in together, you wont get the nice browning, just a soggy heap. Add butter between batches if needed. Keep the temp on low, and stir so the butter doesn’t burn.

Uncover the peas, they should still have plenty of liquid, if not make sure they are covered in liquid and boiling. If they lost too much liquid, turn the heat down a bit. You want a steady boil for another 15 minutes with the lid off. By the end, about half the liquid should reduce, leaving just the right amount of juices so you don’t have soup.

Combine everything in a big bowl, and mix gently with a wooden spoon. Eat with Tart au Citron Vert for dessert.

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