My first encounter with this phenomenon was a great cook named Aurelia in Cuernavaca. She made a fresh, smooth, green zucchini soup using very basic ingredients that I still make often. She also used a blender to make the sauce for her Chiles en Nogada, which is a poblano pepper stuffed with savory meat and sweet fresh and candied fruits, topped with a sweet creamy sauce.
On my second trip, I met Señora Inez, who was also an accomplished cook. The owner of the home in which Senora worked had told us in advance that we needed to have her make her storied Tart de Limon, or Lime Pie. Inez was more than happy to prepare it and even allowed us into the kitchen to see how she did it. Camera in hand, I watched this tiny woman do something that prior to that I found unthinkable…impossible. She made a pie in a microwave. In my rather hick-ish internal monologue: “I like’d to died.”
She crumbled a stack of Maria’s cookies for the crust. Maria’s are a Mexican equivalent to something like a Vanilla Wafer. Only, I prefer Maria’s. You can find them in Dallas at Wal-Mart and Walgreens (the Wal-s) or I’m sure at Fiesta, as well. They are crunchy plain cookies and I love them. She kneaded the cookie crumbs with a chunk of butter over and over again and then pressed this putty into a pie shell. We expected her to place it in the oven, but she let us know that the oven had long since died. She popped the crust in the microwave and we sat there slack jawed as though she had used a one hundred dollar bill for scratch paper.
Then she put four run-of-the-mill ingredients in the blender and pushed “go” looking at the puzzled women in her kitchen as though we were toddlers. And we kind of were. We expected her to do things our way and she didn’t. And her way was fantastic. She scraped the cream into the nuked (and shockingly crisp) cookie crust and popped it into the refrigerator. The pie was wonderful. The pie was sublime. I loved every bite.
The Nitty Gritty Dirt Band has a song called “Get Off of Your High Horse Woman.” I’m not really a high horse sort of a cook, but even I occasionally have to check my ego and food pre-conceptions at the door.
I have been busy and not cooking for public consumption. I’ve been making old recipes that I’ve made before. I’ve been making the stand-bys, the old faithfuls, the ones that work…because I’ve been parenting and working and volunteering and loving and living. But I did take an afternoon or two to play with Inez’ formula and turned it into an even quicker and easier treat. It was fairly quick and easy to start with. But this is sort of an upside-down, individual, busy person pie. The crust is crumbled on top. If you are the one who says “I can’t bake” or “I can’t make desserts,” this one is for you, my friend. This qualifies in all ways as a throw down, but the result is darling enough and delicious enough to serve to anyone at all.
|Lime Cream Cups|| |
- 8 ounces (1 large block) cream cheese
- 14 ounces (1 can) sweetened condensed milk
- ½ cup lime juice (about 6 small limes)
- 1 tablespoon lime zest (loosely packed)
- ½ cup granola
- ½ cup roughly crushed graham cracker
- 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
- 3 tablespoons butter, melted
- To make the lime cups, place the cream cheese, sweetened condensed milk, lime juice and lime zest in the pitcher of a blender. Process until completely smooth and a bit fluffy, stopping and scraping down the sides of the pitcher with a rubber spatula, as needed. This should take about 2 minutes.
- Spoon the filling equally into four 6-ounce ramekins or custard cups. Place the cups in the refrigerator to firm up. This takes about 2 hours.
- Before serving, make the crumbles. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Crush the granola and graham crackers in a small bowl. Add the sugar and melted butter and toss with a fork. Spread onto a cookie sheet and bake for 12 minutes, stirring half way through. Remove from oven and transfer crumbles to a plate to cool completely.
- To serve, place one fourth of the crumbles on each serving of custard.
What’s going on with the limes: Limes at my grocery store cost 67 cents each. I used six in this recipe. I don’t think that is too bad, but if I were buying limes by the case or was a Margarita fiend, I would feel much differently. There is a lime shortage this year. Prices have increase on the order of 200%. Reasons given vary, but the crop is just not as big in Mexico this year. Factors such as weather and cartel activity are being cited. I wrote about the greening disease in the Foodways articles. I wonder if that is having an effect. But, hopefully, the lime growers are safe. Hopefully, they are reaping some of the profit of this price increase, too. Hopefully, we all see that there is a story behind the food. So, pick up the lime. Pick the best ones. Pay up and enjoy them…or save this recipe until next year. But be grateful that there are no armed bandits or thieves running through your orchard stealing your fruit and wish for a milder winter next year.
If you like a more assertive lime flavor though, you can go all the way up to ⅔ cup of juice. Also, these are rather large servings. If you want, you can use smaller glasses as shown in the photo above. Just do not over fill them or you will not have room for the great crunchy topping. But anything 6 ounces or smaller will work fine. Also, you may make the cream cups a day ahead if you choose, but the crumbles are really the most crisp the day they are made.
For another terrific blender treat, try this Cold Chocolate Custard. These are two desserts that give you a lot of bang for your buck and they look and taste a lot more impressive than the ingredient list might lead one to believe. Enjoy!
By the by…I’ve been married for 15 years today. Isn’t that cool? My husband Pitts is a great man and I’m lucky to have a fun, funny, handsome, kind, strong and clever fellow like him around every day. Somehow we lucked into finding each other on this giant planet and I have to say I am a fortunate woman, indeed. Happy Anniversary Pitts! I love you.