Wingin’ It Wednesday: Tomato Mint Salad

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LongJohn’s Nana, Mrs. Nice, has been coming into town to spend some time with him once a week so that I can do things that necessitate the use of both hands (in fact, she’s here right now so that I can use both hands to type this post – yay for Mrs. Nice, and grandparents everywhere!).

When she was here last I whipped up this salad of things that were in my fridge: normally when I make a tomato salad with feta I use balsamic vinegar and fresh basil but I didn’t have either of those so I went with a little twist, and I hope you like it.

Start with some tomatoes, naturally. I’m using grape tomatoes here but you can use whatever you have.

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Then, finely chop up an onion. This is a shallot. A red onion would also be nice.

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Nice and small. We want the IDEA of onion rather than holy-wow-there’s-a-lotta-onion-in-this.

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Grab some mint. I grew this monstrosity from three stalks I got out of a box at the grocery store.

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Crumble up some nice firm feta cheese.

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Assemble!

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I made a dressing out of grapeseed oil, honey, and a bit of lemon juice, and drizzled it over the whole shebang.

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It was lovely!

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Melon Mojitos!

It’s been HOT here in Ottawa. Very hot, like with heat warnings at least half of every week. Fusselette has been in town on furlough from her job up in Northern Ontario and she brought down with her a small pot of pineapple mint, which I’d never heard of before.

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And when in possession of mint in the hot summer, one must make mojitos. Obviously. And these ones were just a wee twist on the classic.

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Grab a couple glasses and scoop a few balls of watermelon into each one. You can use cubes if you don’t have a melon baller. You’re just gonna squish ’em anyway. Slice up some lime wedges and add them in as well.

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Yes, those are key limes. Just wait for the post where I deal with them. Add some mint leaves (pineapple mint!) to the glass as well. I also added an extra splash of lime juice because of my wee limes.

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Use a muddler (or in my case, my trusty spurtle) and mush those up. LongJohn helped, as you can see.

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Let them sit for a few minutes so the juices can meddle with each other.

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I added in a few more balls of melon, then 2 ounces of white rum.
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Top that up with club soda.

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Garnish with more mint and enjoy in the summer sun!

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Brazilian Lemonade

It’s not summer yet, but you’ll be glad to have this in your arsenal when those long hot days finally roll around. The Minion and I discovered this amazing beverage while we were tooling around Salt Lake City and ended up having dinner at a Brazilian grill. The funniest part about it is that it contains no lemons whatsoever. But that is what it’s called.

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The traditional method follows the rule of threes: 3 limes, 3 cups water, 3 tablespoons sweetened condensed milk, and 3 tablespoons sugar, but you can play with it as much as you like to come up with something that suits. I like it with a hint of mint added, myself.

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Take your 3 limes, washed and scrubbed, and slice off the stem and leaf bits at the top and bottom, then quarter them. If you have a really good blender, traditionalists will chuck the limes in whole, but my blender is not that great, so I quarter them. I found wedges were better than cutting rings, as the rings tended to get stuck around the blade at the bottom.

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Fill your blender with 3 cups water and chuck those limes in.

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Next, add in 3 tablespoons sweetened condensed milk and 3 tablespoons granulated sugar. I thought at first I could leave out the sugar but it’s necessary. The milk is just not sweet enough. Feel free to use any sugar substitute you like, of course.

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Now this looks way less appetizing, I’m sure. If you want to add some mint, tip in some fresh leaves at this point.

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Blend for about thirty seconds, until you have this frothy goodness.

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Strain out all the solids and compost those. Your compost bin will smell amazing.

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What you’re left with is a pale green milky liquid and a bit of froth.

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Serve over a glassful of ice and enjoy how refreshing it is.

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Want a dairy-free version? Not a problem. Tip a can of coconut milk into the blender and top it up with water to equal three cups. You will need to double the sugar to six tablespoons to compensate. The result is a slightly creamier version, and I can’t decide which I like more.

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In terms of longevity, this beverage is meant to be served immediately (possibly with some white rum mixed in), but I couldn’t drink both batches by myself that quickly so I tossed them in the fridge. The one of the left is the one I made with coconut milk, and you can see that over time it separates quite a bit. That said, a quick stir and it’s back to emulsified goodness, with no alteration in flavour.

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SideBar: Mint Julep, Modified

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This year, Ottawa marked one of the hottest summers on record. I’m sure that wherever you are, the super el Niño occurring this year really messed with your summer. Here in Ottawa, summer is very reluctant to let go, and the temperatures here in September are only now just starting to cool down to what they should be.

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As it still feels like summer, why not enjoy a summer beverage on this lovely Friday? Yes, it’s yet another bourbon drink, but bourbon is such a very adaptable alcohol – there’s so much you can do with it (and Trav drinks a heckuva lot of it). This is a twist on the traditional mint julep, which is made with bourbon and mint and sugar – that’s it.

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Trav and I decided to take advantage of the massive amounts of lemon balm taking over my garden (so I can make more lemon balm tea) and do a wee varietal (lemon balm is also mint, after all). We also used honey syrup instead of regular sugar syrup (which is 1 cup honey dissolved in 1 cup hot water).

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Grab yourself a glass of some sort. I didn’t have any silver julep cups on hand because I’m not that fancy, so this is just a tumbler that used to be filled with weird Italian effervescents for digestion. Shove about 8 or 9 lemon balm leaves into the bottom of the glass.

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Tip in 3/4 oz honey syrup, and using a muddler (or a spurtle, because I’m not fancy enough to own a muddler), proceed to squish the crap out of your honeyed leaves.

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Squish, squish, squish.

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Now pour in some decent booze, about 2oz bourbon to be exact. I like this Evan Williams kind for this drink because it’s a little fruity.

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Top with some ice cubes. Or one giant one. The ice will hold the leaves down so you don’t sip them up accidentally.

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Sip it whilst calmly admiring your bumper crop of lemon balm.

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Fancy Pants Sammiches

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For my parents’ 40th wedding anniversary party I made a large number of cocktail sandwiches – those are the ones where you cut all the crusts off the bread, or you buy the long, already crustless tramezzini (which is what I did). I’m going to give you all my sandwich filling recipes in one post, and I’ll leave it up to you to do with them what you will!

Fancy Sammiches 181: Smokey Egg Salad Fancy Sammiches 6 Start with about a dozen hard-boiled eggs. Smush them up good. Fancy Sammiches 2 Mince up some chives and tip that into the eggs, together with some salt and pepper, a scoop of Hungarian smoked paprika, and a dollop of mayonnaise. Stir to combine. Fancy Sammiches 52: Lemon-Dill Tuna

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Mince up some celery.

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Grab some herbs as well, like sage, and of course dill. Mince those too.

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Add them in a bowl with your canned flaked tuna, and the juice and zest of 1 lemon.

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Add in just a wee bit of yogurt or mayonnaise for cohesion.

3: Classic Cucumber and Herb

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Grab a small handful each of fresh mint and chives. Mince those up.

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Beat those into softened plain cream cheese and season with salt and pepper. Serve with sliced cucumbers.

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4: Curried “Coronation” Chicken

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Dismantle and shred a small roasted chicken from the grocery store. Mix in a large amount of fresh chopped pineapple sage, as well as a little bit of onion powder, cumin, yellow curry, and a pinch of cardamom. Tip in plain yogurt or mayonnaise for cohesion.

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5: Peanut Butter & Jelly “Sushi”

Fancy Sammiches 24Smear your bread with the peanut butter of your choice (the all-natural stuff is a mite runny, be warned).

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Top with jelly.

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Roll the whole thing up and slice into discs.

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Creamy Mint Guacamole

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I pulled this gem out of the Ottawa Citizen a few weeks back and it makes a fantastic dip all on its own or as a replacement for the traditional sour cream and guacamole side on a plate of nachos.

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I cut everything up by hand but if you don’t have the patience for that you can always pulse the ingredients together in a food processor until combined but still chunky.

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Start by opening up and de-pitting 4 large avocados.  You can tell that they’re ripe because of the bright avocado colour under the stem.

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Slice them into little cubes and scoop them into a large bowl.

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Next, mince up a few cloves garlic.  Chuck that in the bowl too.

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Then grab a bunch of fresh mint (this was about 8 stems) and pull the leaves off, discarding the stems.  Mince the leaves and chuck them into the bowl.

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Now, slice a fresh lime in half and juice it.  Drizzle the juice all over the avocados in your bowl.

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Add a few dashes Tabasco sauce, to taste.

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And a drizzle of honey, your favourite kind.

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Plop in 1 cup sour cream or greek yogurt and season with salt and pepper.

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Give it a vigorous stirring to mix it thoroughly and break up the avocado a bit more — not too much, though, because you want it nice and chunky.

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Serve with fresh warm tortilla chips (these are chipotle flavour from Farm Boy).

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Double-dipping totally acceptable.

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Watermelon and Feta Salad

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Mrs. Nice made this delightful dish for us when we were over for lunch last week and it really hit the spot during that blasted heat wave. She learned it from a man at the grocery store who had been setting out samples and she was immediately hooked.  After tasting it, so was I, and so I made it for a further lunch (on my family’s side) the following weekend.

A note in advance: keep all your ingredients chilled and separate until just before serving or everything will go mushy.

Start with a decently-sized seedless watermelon (or mostly seedless, as was the case here).

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Crack that puppy open by cutting off the ends and paring off the rest of the rind.

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Cut it into slices and then chop those up into cubes and chuck them in a large bowl.

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Chop up as well a large red onion.  That can be pitched into the bowl as well.  You might want to start tossing the ingredients together with your hands so you don’t destroy the watermelon.

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Grab yourself a bunch of fresh mint.

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Pull off the leaves and chop those up finely as well.

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Sprinkle those over your watermelon.

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Finally, haul over a good-sized hunk of firm feta cheese and cut that up as finely or as coarsely as you like.

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Dump that in the salad as well and toss to mix it all up.

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Juice a lime and pour the juice into a bowl.

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Add in about 1 tablespoon (a glop) olive oil and whisk to emulsify.

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Drizzle that over your salad and eat it all up!
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Staying Hydrated in Style

I wasn’t going to post about this, because I do it so often and it’s so simple that I never even think about it.  But the Pie suggested it might be a good idea to let you in on the deal.

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Gren also gets hot in the summer.

I get dehydrated really easily in hot weather and summer in Ottawa is very, very HOT.  Hot and long, temperatures often going up as high as 50°C (122°F) on humid days.  And when I get dehydrated I tend to faint and that is super embarrassing.  Therefore, I drink a TON of water.  But water gets so boring after a while, so I dress it up a little and then I can pretend I’m at some fancy spa.

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We have to keep the curtains shut to keep out the afternoon sun. It makes the shadows very interesting.

I have a pretty glass bottle that I keep in the fridge full of water, and it’s a simple thing to just add a bit of natural flavouring to it.  My go-to refresher is lemon water.  I just cut the ends off a lemon, and slice the rest of it small enough to fit in the mouth of the bottle.  Then you just leave it for a few hours and BOOM.  FLAVOURED WATER.

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Another good refreshing option is adding a sprig or two of fresh mint from my mini garden to a handful of fresh raspberries.

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For something more subtle, try cutting up half a cucumber and sliding that into the water.

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And the extra fancy option is a few sliced strawberries and some fresh basil leaves.  I think this one is actually my favourite now.

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I find that I can keep topping up the bottle for a couple of days before the vegetable matter in it starts to get squishy and needs to be composted, and the water starts to lose the flavour.

What’s your favourite combination?

 

Tabouleh, Take Two

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Mid-September in Ottawa is when the garden tomato harvest is at its peak.  For as long as my parents have lived in this house, they’ve had more tomato plants and therefore more tomatoes than they really know what to do with.  This year, however, was a different story.  Having spent a large chunk of last winter and spring in Florida, my parents got their plants in too late to have a particularly good yield.  In previous years, my parents have given plants and tomatoes to everyone who will take them.  This year, those recipients are paying them back.  So the next two dishes this week will be tomato based while I try to get the tomatoes used before they go soft.  This is my second tabouleh recipe here on the blog (first one is here), and this one is more or less traditional, though I added a few extra spices just for fun.

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Start with 1 cup bulgur, and about 3 tablespoons olive oil.  Stir those together in a medium-sized bowl.

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Cover the oily bulgur with 2 cups boiling water; give it a stir and set it aside for at least 15 minutes.

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Now grab yourself an enormous hunk of fresh parsley (probably about 2 cups total). We have two kinds in our garden — this fluffy one:

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and this more flat-leaved variety.

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You also want a hunk of fresh mint (about half a cup).  This has seen better days (it was the only survivor of our weed-burning escapade at the back of the house), but it’s still good.

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I was feeling lazy so I chucked all those things in a food processor.

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So much easier than mincing!

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Now comes the annoying part: you have to dice AND SEED all your tomatoes.  If you don’t seed them then your tabouleh will be mushy and that’s just gross.  I used about 10 medium-sized tomatoes for this particular recipe.

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When you’ve got all the tomatoes done, season them with salt and pepper.  I also threw in a dash of ground coriander and another of cayenne.  I figured the coriander is also a parsley sort of thing so it could only boost the flavour.

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Chuck in your other herbs.

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Your bulgur has by now absorbed all the water that it’s going to, so you’re going to need to drain it.

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Use either cheesecloth or a fine mesh strainer to get as much water out of it as you can.  I find the cheesecloth helps because I can just pick it up and squeeze it.

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Add the bulgur to your tomato mix and add a few dollops more olive oil.  Stir in lemon juice to taste.

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Serve garnished with a piece of parsley, or stuff a bunch into a pita for a quick snack!

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Lemon Cloud with Strawberries and Mint

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Fussellette asked me to make “something light” for dessert following our Easter meal of a traditional Jiggs dinner.  What is lighter than a cloud?  Not much.  This sharp lemon foam is a great palette-cleanser and went smashingly with some post-prandial tea.  And, as most things gluten-free tend to be (with the exception of doughy things of course), it was easy and quick to make.  I made it the day before to allow the flavours to really concentrate themselves.

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Start with some fresh strawberries, 2 cups.  Wash them, cut the tops off, and slice them into quarters.  Drop them in a bowl.

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Sprinkle 2 tablespoons sugar over top.

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Grab yourself some fresh mint, 2 tablespoons.  Chop that up and drop it on top of the strawberries.

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Give that a stir, then chuck it in the fridge to chill.

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Preheat your oven to 350°F.  Spray a 1 1/2 quart soufflé dish (I didn’t have one, so I used this steep-sided oval bowl) with cooking spray and dust with 2 tablespoons sugar.  The recipe said to shake out the excess but I left mine in the bottom in the hopes it would get all crusty and lovely, and I was right.  Set the dish on top of a baking sheet.

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Separate 4 eggs and bring the whites to room temperature.  You’ll only need two of the yolks.  I had three whites left over from eggs Benny so in actual fact this recipe used 5 whites.

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Grate the zest of 2 lemons and squeeze out their juice as well.  You want to end up with 2 tablespoons lemon zest and 6 tablespoons lemon juice.

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In a small saucepan, whisk together 1/2 cup sugar and 1 tablespoon corn starch.

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Add in the lemon juice, zest, and the 2 egg yolks and stir until smooth.

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Heat on medium, stirring constantly, until thick enough to coat the back of a wooden spoon.  Transfer to a large glass bowl and allow to cool to room temperature.

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Take your 4 egg whites and plop them in a bowl with a pinch of salt.  Whisk until foamy.

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Gradually add, a little bit at a time, 1/4 cup sugar, and continue to beat until stiff peaks form.

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Take about 1/4 of the egg whites and fold it into the lemon curd in the glass bowl.

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When that is fully incorporated you can fold in the rest of the whites.

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Transfer the mixture to the soufflé dish and smooth the top.

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Bung that in the oven for 25 minutes, or until the eggy mess is puffy and slightly browned on top.  Haul it out and put it on a wire rack to cool.

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Now watch it fall.  Don’t fret — it’s supposed to fall.

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When it’s cool cover it with plastic wrap and chuck that in the fridge as well to get chilly. When you’re ready to eat, take it out. Or you could sit in your fridge and eat it. Whatever works for you. Scoop some out, top with your strawberry compote, and you’re golden.

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