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Key limes were brought to the States by Spanish explorers, and the limes continued to entrench themselves in the tropics and subtropics of the New World, including South Florida and its famed Keys—and my backyard, where we had a key lime tree until a citrus blight in the 1990s.
As I wrote last week, key limes are smaller, paler, yellower, and more acidic than the standard lime.Hence, their taste is incomparable. So incomparable, in fact, that according to Wikipedia, in 1965 a state representative proposed a $100 fine on anyone selling key lime pie (the state pie, of course) made using any lime other than key limes. It didn’t pass, but I do think that selling key lime anything that does not quickly impart that distinct acidic sweetness—almost a vanilla tinge—is selling under false pretenses!
Key Lime Granita
Key lime pie is this Florida girl’s favorite dessert. This granita version is slightly less guilt-inducing. It starts with yellow jade key lime juice, super tart, with vanilla sugar and cream for a little key lime pie something. A shot of vodka doesn’t hurt.
This recipe is super tart, like a lime FrozeFruit popsicle. If you like it less strident, decrease the amount of lime juice and up the proportion of water, or add a bit more vanilla sugar to your taste.
Key Lime Granita
- 1 cup key lime juice (more or less to taste)
- 1 cup water
- 1/4 cup vodka
- 1/4 cup vanilla sugar (more or less to taste)
- 1/2 cup heavy cream
Bring the key lime juice, water, and vodka to a boil, and add the vanilla sugar. You could add the vodka later if you wanted to keep the alcohol content. Once the sugar has dissolved, take the mixture off the stove to cool.
Add the cream (and the vodka if you want to retain the alcohol) and decant into a brownie baking dish. Place in the freezer, and scrape with a fork once an hour for 4 hours or until flakey and frozen in little key lime pie crystals.
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Niçoise Tuna Cakes
I love crab cakes. If they’re on the menu, I order them. I devised this departure from crab cakes not out of boredom, but in the attempt to create yet another thing to sate my adoration. Crispy on the outside, doughy on the inside; light, briny, and hearty. They’re perfect.
In this version, I start with fresh tuna steak, cooked medium, and flaked to the texture of crab meat. Then, I pepper the meat with the flavors of a Niçoise salad: capers, lemon, olive oil, anchovies, garlic, olives, and thyme. Bind with crumbs made from the stale butts of leftover baguettes and mayonnaise, and you have a cake that is altogether unconventional. I serve it with easy tapenade crème fraîche and lemon aïoli that are lessons in how to renovate store-bought ingredients into something that tastes homemade.
Most of the time in this column, I am inspired by the classic dishes and preparations of France. But this week, I’m not spinning a coq au vin or a cassoulet, but rather attempting to eat as the French eat: by season.
I admit that it is not my forté, and I wonder if others have the same difficulty. I believe that the omnipresence of certain vegetables and fruits and meats in our supermarkets have led us to crave, and settle for, basil in wintertime or Brussels sprouts in summer. Food prices are generally affordable enough that we do not always notice an out-of-season premium, and local farmer’s markets of local, seasonal produce can often be heartbreakingly more expensive than the supermarket.
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Posted by Kerry |
Categories: 15 Minutes, Easy, Eat, French in a Flash, Main Courses, Recipes, Series, Sides, Starches, Vegetarian, Vegetarian
Key Lime Scallop Ceviche
Key limes occupy a treasured corner of my heart. In fact, when I return to Florida, where I spent seven years of my life with a key lime tree out in my citrus-stocked yard, I can feel my pulse quicken just at the thought of key lime—my heart turns into a little round yellow lime, pumping that pucker-tart milky-jade juice through my veins.
Key limes are around all the time in South Florida; but up North, I find that sacks of these baby round limes show up in gourmet stores, and sit there, and eventually someone disposes of them. I don’t know if the general population understands how special the key lime is—how different it is from our standard limes. They’re rounder, and smaller, and paler than the limes we are used to. More chartreuse than emerald. But for their diminutive size, they pack a punch. They are tarter, more acidic, and altogether more flavorful and vital than regular limes.
Salmon and sorrel go as hand-in-hand in French cuisine, as much as Napoleon and his white horse, or Marie Antoinette and La Guillotine do in French history. A somewhat obscure herb to many, sorrel is leafy, grassy, fresh, and slightly astringent. It is that insistent acerbic tang that makes it such match for salmon—countering the butteriness of the fish, holding its pungency at bay.
Traditionally, salmon with sorrel sauce, saumon à l’oseille, is a seared fillet of salmon served with a creamy sauce made from cream and sorrel, among other things, heated and pulverized into purée. I have always found that French culture has a wonderful capacity for supporting two opposing but equal truths at once in the same vessel: girls, for example, may be jolie-laide, or pretty-ugly. Similarly, so many recipes in French cuisine, like saumon à l’oseille, are rustic-refined—a dichotomous combination of simple heartiness, elegant but unfussy presentation, and uncomplicated but pert flavors.
Niçoise Fried Olives
There are two things I tend to relate with the South of France: olives, and summer. I don’t know about where you are, but where I am, this week has been positively August-like. No matter when the season officially starts, summer has arrived, and I begin to travel via daydream back to my favorite place in the world: Provence.
Though my mother was born there, I never traveled there until I was fifteen years old, when Maman took me on a trip that summer to Aix-en-Provence and Cannes. In France there is an expression: coup de foudre. Literally, a bolt of lightning, but figuratively, a love that hits you hard and suddenly. It was love at first sight, and at first taste.