The Most Delicious, Lemony, and Frugal Pie

This for me is the epitome of lemon pie and the simplest one to make.

It all started with a reference to an old pie created by cooks who adored lemons but did not have plenty, so they considered them precious…

 

 

This fruit/condiment which for us is trivial and almost worthless, was truly precious for the Shakers, the early nineteenth-century religious group living in communities throughout New England. “Shaker lemon pie uses the entire lemon, from yellow peel through white pith […] This means slicing two whole lemons absolutely paper thin and macerating them for hours in sugar. If you can drape them over the knife blade like the watches in Salvador Dali’s surrealistic paintings, you’re on the right track. The resulting pie includes a subtle sharp flavor from the pith, and the texture tends toward the chewy side, but it all works for the aforementioned lemon-lovers like myself,” writes Nancy McDermott in her book Southern Pies.

 

Away from New England, Shakers also established “…a vibrant fellowship in Pleasant Hill, Kentucky. Preserved as a living history museum, today’s Shaker Village at Pleasant Hill illuminates their traditions and creations […] Their restaurants serve this signature confection, Shaker Lemon Pie,” concludes McDermott in her introduction to the brilliant recipe that inspired me.

 

As soon as I came upon this incredibly simple, yet exquisite lemon cream, I felt compelled to try it. I had lemons, of course, and eggs from our neighbors’ hens. I wanted to make the pie fast, so I didn’t bother making a pie crust; just lined the pan and topped the cream with some leftover shredded phyllo (kunefe or kataifi) pastry that I happen to have in my freezer. Because it was not enough, I halved the recipe and after I baked the pie I didn’t even have the patience to wait for it to cool completely, and took a bite: it was even more delicious than I had imagined! And, strangely enough, the next days its flavor deepened and got even better.

Once I decided to definitely use the shredded phyllo, I followed the Serious Eats well described instruction for Kunefe, the traditional Middle Eastern sweet that basically uses it.

 

Knowing me and my affinity for substituting olive oil for butter –which I usually don’t have in my fridge– you probably have guessed that I rubbed the shredded phyllo well with olive oil before spreading it on the pan and topping the lemon cream. You can certainly choose butter if you like.

We have particularly sweet lemons, but the recipe works well with all kinds and, I assure you, it is foolproof.

 

Adapted from Nancy McDermott

 

Makes a 9-inch (23 cm.) pie (more…)

Share

Read More

The Seedy Grapes from our old Vines

Most of the grapes our vines produce hardly manage to ripen; wasps and all kinds of insects attack them as soon as they start to blush. Until this year, come harvest time, we just find a few bunches of rotten, half-eaten grapes which are sweet but filled with seeds and difficult to swallow.

 

Early this August, as we finished harvesting the almonds, we noticed quite a few nice bunches of grapes hanging from the old, robust vines that engulf the southern fence of our property, behind the lemon trees.  From these vines we mainly gather the tender grape leaves early in May, to stuff and make our trademark dolmades.

 

Usually the grapes our vines produce hardly manage to ripen; wasps and all kinds of insects attack them as soon as they start to blush. Come harvest time, we just find a few bunches of rotten, half-eaten grapes which are sweet but filled with seeds and difficult to swallow.

 

These vines are probably a remnant of the old vineyards our little valley was famous for; the dark grapes used to produce quite good wine in the old days, as I discovered researching the paper I wrote for the 2017 Oxford Symposium: (more…)

Share

Read More

Moustalevria: Grape Must Jelly

The two baskets of ripe grapes we gathered from our old vines were too few for wine and too seedy to eat; so Costas and I decided to press them and take the juice to drink, freeze some to make granita, and certainly make moustalevria, the traditional grape must jelly our mothers used to make each year. 

 

The old recipes ask for a lengthy process of simmering and clarifying the grape must with wood ash, which I always skip. I much prefer a fruity-tasting moustalevria, so I briefly boil the juice with the cornstarch, just until it thickens, much like I do when I make my orange ‘cream’ in the winter. You can use any nice grapes you like to make the juice, but I wouldn’t use the canned concord grape juice available everywhere in the US as I am not fond of its taste and aroma.

 

Serves 8-10 (more…)

Share

Read More

Oriental Orange ‘Cream’

With no eggs or cream, this light fruity dessert is based on Portocal Peltesi, a Turkish recipe I tasted in Istanbul. You can make it with any fruit juice –lemon, tangerine, grape, pomegranate etc.  You can also use the fruit ‘cream’ as filling for a pre-baked tart shell. I like to serve it with cakes, as well as with Sweet Orange and Pistachio Couscous

 

 Photo by Anastasios Mentis from my ‘Mediterranean Hot and Spicy’

 

 

Serves 6 (more…)

Share

Read More