Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Good mornings

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: we are not morning people around here. Ben and I missed our own post-wedding brunch because we couldn't wake up in time, and old habits stick. So yet again, in 2011, I'm vowing to greet the day more gracefully, and to motivate the rest of my crew to do so. Will the resolution stick? Not likely. With the exception of my bright-eyed four-year-old, the rest of us excel at hitting the snooze button, ignoring the daylight creeping in, and hiding beneath the duvet until we have no choice but to crawl out in search of coffee. Our six-year-old, who in the morning hours is simply known as “The Teenager,” sets the tone, and even our energetic puppy has come around to our way of doing things.

I know there are important things I’m missing by rising at 10:00 on weekends. The sunrise, for one (there were fleeting windows, when the girls and the pup were new, when sunrise viewing was a big part of my life). I'll never show my face at the first yoga class of the day, and I'll always forfeit dibs on the choicest eggs at the farmer’s market–the ones from Grazin’ Angus Acres and Flying Pigs Farm, who sell out by 9. The scones and muffins will always already have cooled by the time I drag myself to Ted and Honey, and I can forget about ever making it out for a weekend breakfast date.

But compensatory strategies have evolved, and these have yielded rewards of their own. We're pretty good company at night, and those post-dawn lie-ins are delicious. The rogue earlybird of the family now pulls her weight in the morning; she is, dare I say it? Well-trained now. When we’re in the country, we’ve mastered the art of sending her downstairs to unlock the door, let the dog out, and push the ON button of the pre-loaded coffeemaker (next she’ll be fixing herself breakfast, as my own parents taught me to do by age five). By the time the pup has circled the yard and the aroma of Stumptown has wafted upstairs, we’re ready to join her, and then the six-year-old floats downstairs sometime in the next half hour: wraith-like, dandelion-headed, unwilling to eat or talk.

So to help revive her, and to make Saturdays a bit sweeter for all of us, I have a secret weapon, and it's called Meyer Lemon and Ginger curd. That last word does not sound very nice, so I prefer to just call it “morning sunshine” instead. I think of it as the golden love child of custard and marmalade: smooth and rich and tart. The ginger imparts a bit of added bite but can be toned down or left out altogether.

If you're not already acquainted with the meyer lemon, it's a lovely cross between a lemon and a mandarin, with lemon's bright and clear tones, the pucker tamed and rounded out by a hint of orangey sweetness. If moving to California were ever a consideration for me, meyer lemons, which grow like crazy there, would certainly be the deciding factor.

I'm aware that a curd can be whisked together over direct heat, but I prefer the security of an improvised bain-marie, or double boiler: by setting a metal bowl over a pot of simmering water, you heat an egg mixture more gently and help prevent scrambling or an uneven texture. If you'd like to try the recipe below over direct heat, go for it–just keep the heat very low and don't stop stirring.

When we have this addictive confection on hand, we slather it on toasted croissant halves or crispy toast. The girls sneak it out of the jar by the tottering spoonful, and we've found these spoonfuls an even more effective elixir for weekday mornings. And, although the sugar content is somewhat toned down here, this recipe is also great as a dessert component, with pound cake and fruit or in a flaky, pre-baked tart shell with berries on top. But we prefer to save this much-needed brightness to take the edge off our mornings. Graceful? It's a start.

Morning Sunshine  
adapted from recipes by David Lebovitz, and Claudia Fleming's The Last Course 


  • 2 large eggs
  • 3 large egg yolks
  • 1/3 cup sugar 
  • Zest of 2 large meyer lemons (preferably organic)
  • 1/2 cup freshly squeezed meyer lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon grated ginger (less for a more subtle taste)
  • Pinch of sea salt
  • 6 tablespoons (3 oz.) unsalted butter cut into pieces, at room temperature


Prepare a medium saucepan with water in the bottom, and find a metal bowl that fits snugly on top of it without touching the water. Bring the water to a gently simmer. Meanwhile, in the bowl, whisk together eggs, yolks, and sugar. Stir in juice, zest, ginger, and salt. Place bowl on top of saucepan and cook, whisking constantly so eggs don't scramble, for about 10 minutes. Stop when mixture is glossy and custard-like and coats the back of a spoon. Remove from heat and whisk in butter in a few additions, until it blends into mixture. Strain the mixture through a fine mesh sieve (use a spatula to push it through), and refrigerate immediately.

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