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Times restaurant critic S. Irene Virbila's Sunday dessert: lemon curd tart

June 13, 2011 | 11:16 am

Verbena edit 2 (1 of 1) Meyer lemons are thick on the tree by my stairs. I planted it a couple of years ago and it is thriving. Sometimes I make Moroccan preserved lemons from Paula Wolfert's recipe in "Couscous and Other Good Food From Morocco," one of my most treasured cookbooks.

On this past gray Sunday when I was home working, I decided to make a lemon curd tart to cheer up the table. The recipe calls for a 1/2 cup of lemon juice, plus 4 eggs, a 1/2 cup of sugar and 6 tablespoons butter, all of which I had on hand. The only thing I needed (and it's optional to serve with the pie) was some Straus Family Creamery cream. But since I didn’t feel like going out shopping, I just used the crema Mexicana I already had in the fridge.

The recipe I always use is one from Times Food Editor Russ Parsons in his article The Smooth Simplicity of Curd. He’s developed the foolproof method for making the curd, which can sometimes be tricky. Read the article and he’ll explain. I think the trick is the cold butter.

You’ll need a sieve to strain the custard and a tin removable-bottom tart pan. His recipe fits a 9-inch tart pan perfectly. Or you can make 1 1/2 times the recipe to get enough filling for an 11-inch tart pan. The crust is up to you. I use former Chez Panisse pastry chef Lindsey Remolif Shere’s recipe for short crust pastry in “Chez Panisse Desserts.” (For an 11-inch crust she ups her recipe by 1/4.) No rolling involved: after resting the dough for 30 minutes, it's pressed into the tart tin.

FYI: That's a lemon verbena leaf used as a garnish in the photo above.

Every time I make this tart, the guests inevitably say this one was the best ever. Go figure.

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-- S. Irene Virbila

Photo credit: S. Irene Virbila / Los Angeles Times

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