JULIA SPENCER-FLEMING: Today is the vernal equinox, the first day of spring (and it actually kinda feels like it in southern Maine for a change!) Time for food thoughts to turn to the light, bright and sunny. I have the perfect dessert for you.
It's always a great pleasure to get cold-weather citrus in the Northlands; having friends or retired relatives in Florida or SoCal can really pay off in winter, when they send up delicious naval oranges, grapefruit, lemons and limes. (Pretty sure those care boxes save some in the Northeast from scurvy.) I got a wonderful bag of organic lemons, raised in California by the brother of a good friend. Evidently there was a bumper crop this year: the brother sent TWO boxes each to my friend and his mother, and the luscious lemons got shared around.
So we've had fresh lemon along with honey in tea, hot vodka and lemon juice, and I made a hearty Moroccan Chicken with lemon and olives. But now spring is here, and I want something that's not designed to fend off the chill. It's too early for lemonade, so I'm going with sweet, delicious homemade lemon bars. This recipe is from my friend's mother, a feisty 94-year-old who lives independently in her house in northern Maine and who makes wicked good cookies.
MRS. LAMAR'S LEMON BARS
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and generously grease a 9x13" pan.
1 cup softened butter
1/2 cup confectioner's sugar
2 cups flour
4 cups sugar
8 Tbs fresh-squeezed lemon juice
grated rind of 1 lemon
1/4 cup flour
1 tsp Baking Powder
Confectioner's sugar to dust
Cream the butter and the confectioner's sugar together until light and fluffy. Blend in 2 cups flour. Press into the greased pan and bake for 20 minutes. Cool.
Beat eggs lightly in bowl. Add sugar, lemon juice, lemon rind, 1/4 cup flour and baking powder. Mix well. Spread over baked layer and bake for 25 minutes.
Cool on a wire rack, cut into squares and sprinkle with confectioner's sugar while still hot.
Doesn't that sound just about perfect? And not too time consuming. You can arrange some spring blooms and have a cup of tea while the bars are baking. Enjoy, and happy Spring!