I need a new car. People who know me will likely agree and, for those of you who haven’t seen me in awhile, yes, I am still driving the tan Jeep. I’m not really a “car person,” so I don’t really care what kind of car it is, so long as it’s functional and moderately attractive. That said, I wouldn’t turn down a Maserati. Or an Aston Martin. Just an F.Y.I.
Up until this year my ungracefully aging car was not a big issue. Although the gas mileage rivals that of a Hummer, it’s great for transporting the large pups and for impulse buying-filled trips to Costco (where we always emerge with at least one 50-pound bag of something.)
Then, things started happening:
1. After finishing grocery shopping one sunny afternoon, I reached for the handle to open the rear door so that I could load the bags. Now, I work out, doing arm curls and such, but we’re talking girly 10-15 pound weights–not exactly something that draws crowds at the gym. So the reason why, with one little tug, the door handle flew off the car and nearly hit the Lexus behind me is unclear. Oh wait–that’s right. My car is old. So now I can’t open my rear door at all because there is no handle and, as luck would have it, no automatic open feature. I have become a master at maneuvering awkwardly large objects into the car through the side door though, so I guess that’s the glass-is-half-full way of looking at things.
2. A few weeks later, when I was driving along the freeway, I felt a great deal of air coming in from the back seat. I glanced behind me and saw that the back passenger side window was halfway down, so I pressed the button to raise it. Didn’t work. In fact, the window continued to slide down until **POOF!**, it was gone, lost within the confines of the door somewhere. Lovely. So now I not only drive with the rear window down (way down), I need to keep the front window cracked to prevent a horrible, ear-popping flapping sound, which occurs at any speed over 30 mph.
3. Because of #2, it’s been awhile since I’ve washed my car.
4-8. Two flat tires, one dead battery, something that continuously causes the oil light to beckon, and sporadic power steering. The guy from AAA and I are pretty much on a first name basis.
To make matters worse, my Jeep dealership closed, which is why I haven’t done much in the way of repairs. That and I really, really want a new car. I argue that the repairs would likely cost as much as a new car, but that never seems to fly with Eric. I mean, what is it with guys and their car loyalty? My brother drove both of his cars (including the infamous “Meatwagon,” which was similar to the family truckster from Vacation) until they were scraps of metal on wheels. I think that Eric intends to do the same for both of our vehicles. To him, that feeling of not having a car payment is just too good. So it looks like, for the foreseeable future, I am stuck with this lemon.
SPEAKING OF LEMONS…….(how’s that for a desperate transition??)
Last year, and the year before, I mentioned our two bountiful Meyer lemon trees that grow in our backyard. This year’s crop arrived a bit later than last years, but boy did it arrive with a flourish. Gigantic, deep yellow, round lemons weigh down all of the branches. So round and so deep yellow they are, that many people mistake them for oranges. We have given them to friends by the bagful, but I of course had to reserve some for my personal use. These Meyer lemon meringue tartelettes, or mini pies, have been in my mind to attempt since the lemons bore the smallest hint of yellow. They are sooo worth the wait. Here are my extra tips for making these lip-puckering lemon tartelettes:
- The lemon curd may be prepared one day in advance and refrigerated overnight.
- I usually don’t recommend using semi-homemade ingredients a la Sandra Lee, but in this case store-bought gingersnaps work better than the made-from-scratch variety.
- Although Meyer lemons will achieve a slightly different taste with this recipe, I understand that they are not available everywhere. You can certainly use conventional lemons and the tartelettes will still be wonderful.
- If you own a kitchen torch, by all means use it in lieu of baking the meringue at 500F degrees. I was all prepared to have a little fun with mine, but then I discovered that I was out of butane (drats!)
- The step in this recipe where you chill the curd-filled crusts is very important. Warm or even room temperature crusts might be too fragile to stand on their own without falling apart. Chilling the crusts firms them up, allowing them to hold the curd when transferred from the muffin tin.
Meyer Lemon Meringue Tartelettes
Makes about 12
3 large eggs
3 large egg yolks
8 tablespoons butter
Zest of one large Meyer lemon
1/2 cup freshly squeezed Meyer lemon juice
1 1/4 cups sugar
1/8 teaspoon salt
For the Gingersnap Crust
1/2 cup lightly toasted chopped pecans
7 tablespoons butter, melted
For the Meringue
5 large egg whites, room temperature
1/8 teaspoon cream of tartar
7 tablespoons sugar
Prepare the Meyer lemon curd: In a medium bowl, whisk together the eggs and the egg yolks. Melt the butter in a metal bowl set over a saucepan filled with simmering water. Whisk in the lemon zest, lemon juice, sugar, and salt. Whisking constantly, gradually add the egg mixture. Continue to whisk the mixture until it thickens, and it reads 180F degrees on an instant read thermometer. Transfer the curd to a bowl and cover it with plastic wrap, pressing the plastic wrap on the surface of the curd. Chill until cold, about 4 hours.
Prepare the Crust: In the work bowl of a food processor, combine the gingersnaps and the pecans; process until finely ground. Drizzle the melted butter over the mixture and then pulse until it is evenly moistened.
Preheat the oven to 325F degrees. Line one 12-cup muffin tin with paper liners. Place about 3 packed tablespoons worth of the gingersnap mixture into each muffin cup. Using a shot glass or a similarly shaped object, mold the gingersnap mixture to the bottom and sides of the cup, pressing to form. Bake the crusts until browned, about 10 minutes, and then allow them to cool for 10 minutes.
Divide the chilled curd among the crusts, filling each almost to the top. Loosely cover the muffin tin with plastic wrap and chill for 1 hour.
Prepare the meringue: Preheat the oven to 500F degrees. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, beat the egg whites until they are frothy. Mix in the cream of tartar and continue to beat until soft peaks form. With the machine still running, slowly add the sugar, beating until stiff peaks form.
Using a paring knife loosen the tartelettes from the muffin tin and carefully transfer them to a baking sheet. Divide the meringue among the tops of the tartelettes, carefully spreading to seal at the edges and swirling decoratively. Place the tarts in the oven and, watching closely, bake for 3-5 minutes or until the meringue starts to turn golden brown. Allow the tartelettes to cool completely and serve. Tartelettes may also be chilled for an hour and then served cold.