Makes about 36 tartlets
The bright yellow filling of these tiny tartlets creates a perfect backdrop for whatever is most beautiful from your herb garden: lemon balm, lemon verbena, salad burnet, violas, borage flowers, or lavender blossoms. I prefer tart lemon curd, but make it sweeter if you wish by adding 1 to 2 tablespoons more sugar. Sometimes I add finely minced lemon verbena and lemon balm to the lemon curd after it has cooled slightly. Because the pastry shells may be made in advance and frozen, and the lemon curd keeps for more than a week in the refrigerator, these desserts are easy to assemble and garnish the day of the party.
• 1 1/2 cups flour
• 1/2 teaspoon salt
• 1/2 teaspoon sugar
• 1/8 teaspoon baking powder
• 1/2 heaping cup vegetable shortening
• 3 tablespoons cold water
1. Sift the flour, salt, sugar, and baking powder into a bowl. Cut the shortening into the flour mixture with a pastry blender. Add the cold water, 1 tablespoon at a time. Stir gently, very lightly forming a loose ball of dough. Cover with plastic wrap and chill for at least an hour so that it will be easy to roll out.
2. On a lightly floured board, roll out dough as thinly as possible. Use a 21/2- to 3-inch cookie cutter to cut dough into rounds. Press the dough loosely into miniature tartlet or muffin tins that have been lightly sprayed with vegetable oil. Bake at 400°F for 10 to 12 minutes or until light and golden. If you are preparing ahead of time, freeze tartlet shells in an airtight container until the day of the party. (Do not thaw before filling.)
Makes about 1 cup
• 3/4 cup fresh lemon juice
• 3/4 cup sugar
• 8 tablespoons butter
• 6 egg yolks
• 1 to 2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh lemon verbena or lemon balm, if desired
1. Place the first three ingredients in a double boiler. Bring the water to a simmer. Stir the mixture gently with a spoon until the butter has melted. Slowly add the yolks and stir until the mixture has thickened slightly. Continue to cook until it coats the back of a wooden spoon without running—about 5 to 8 minutes. Do not allow to boil or it may curdle.
2. Pour into a glass or metal bowl and chill for 30 to 40 minutes. Stir in the fresh herbs, if desired. Cover with plastic wrap, pressing the wrap down on the surface of the curd to prevent it from making a film. Refrigerate and allow to thicken for 2 more hours.
3. To assemble, fill each cooled or frozen tartlet shell with lemon curd and garnish with a few fresh berries, herb sprigs, and edible flowers. (The leaves and flowers can be picked early in the morning and refrigerated until the tartlets are assembled.)
4. Use garden furniture to display festive serving platters.
Lucinda Hutson writes and gardens from her home in Austin, Texas. She has written The Herb Garden Cookbook (Gulf Publishing Company, 1998), and her articles on food and gardening appear in many publications. You can order her book by writing Lucinda Hutson, PO Box 300607, Austin, TX 78703 or on her website at www.onr.com/user/lucinda
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