Sometimes, I can be a great big procrastinator, especially when the task at hand is something that I don’t really want to do. I’ve been futzing around with this post for over two weeks. Every day, I would sit down to write it, and every day I would find something else to do instead. I would stare at the blank computer screen for a while and then move on to something else. Why? Because this post is about cancer, and I hate cancer. I hate talking about cancer. I hate writing about cancer. I hate thinking about cancer. Cancer is a thief and a liar and a cruel, sadistic bastard. The last thing I wanted to do was talk, write or even think about it.
Many of you who are regular readers of this blog may already know that I lost my father to renal cancer in November, 2006. I’ve written about him before, here
. He was an extraordinary man – strong, yet warm; tough, yet kind; shrewd, yet caring. He was my hero. In the span of one short year I watched as cancer sapped the life out of this robust and vital man, bit by bit, breath by breath, until his body was nothing more than an unwelcoming host for his beautiful soul. Each day, my heart broke a little bit more as he slipped further and further away from us. When he died, a piece of me died with him.
Since then, I have watched others that I care about become afflicted with this scourge. My assistant, M., recently completed seven weeks of radiation and chemotherapy. My next door neighbors on either side of me, J. and T., have each been battling the disease as well. One of them has three little children under the age of ten. I lost one friend and colleague to colon cancer. She was the mother of a preschooler. One other close friend of mine is (thankfully) now in remission from breast cancer.
When my dad was sick, sometimes the despair was so great, it was like having a big, heavy cloak draped over me. It was so hard to find anything positive amidst all of that negativity. A friend of mine, who had recently lost her daughter to cancer gave me the following verse in the hope that I might find some comfort in it. I didn’t at the time, but since then, I have come to see the wisdom in these words. I am passing it on to you so that it can maybe ease the burden of others whose lives have been touched by this dreadful disease.
When I first read about the A Taste of Yellow event hosted by Barbara at Winos and Foodies, I knew that I had to participate. This event was conceived to commemorate LIVESTRONG Day. LIVESTRONG Day is sponsored by the Lance Armstrong Foundation. It’s purpose is to unify people affected by cancer and to raise cancer awareness on a national level and in local communities across the country. This year, LIVESTRONG Day will occur on Tuesday, May 13. Barbara plans to post the roundup for A Taste of Yellow to coincide with this.
The participants in A Taste of Yellow are to make and post a recipe of their choosing containing some element of yellow food. Yellow is the official color of the LIVESTRONG program. Last year, almost one hundred fifty food bloggers participated in this event. I’ve been seeing an awful lot of yellow food around the blogosphere lately, so I suspect we just might beat that number this time around.
For my entry in this event, I made mini lemon cream filled filo cups with a ginger-spiced whipped creme fraiche and fresh berries. I used Pierre Hermes’ divine and decadent lemon cream recipe from Dorie Greenspan’s Baking: From My Home to Yours
. Yes, I know that this cream was the featured recipe in last week’s Baking with Dorie event, but remember, I made this over two weeks ago before I knew that! So, you’ll just have to deal with it! This recipe makes a lot of cream. You can make a whole batch and use the rest for something else or just half the recipe.
Once the lemon cream is made, the rest of the recipe is a breeze to make. You can buy frozen filo sheets as well as pre-baked filo cups in most supermarkets. Since I already had the sheets in my freezer, I opted to use them. I just cut out three inch circles of filo and formed a few layers into mini muffin tins, brushing with a little melted butter. Then I baked them, filled them, garnished them, photographed them and ate them! The mini cups are just the right size for these treats as the lemon cream is so rich. The perfect bite, if you will.
My thanks go out to Barbara for taking on the challenge of hosting this great event. Please make sure to take some time to visit her site when the roundup is posted.
Mini Filo Cups with Lemon Cream, Ginger-Spiced Creme Fraiche Whipped Cream and Fresh Berries
1/2 package frozen filo dough, cut into 3-inch rounds (or pre-baked filo cups)
Pierre Hermes’ French Lemon Cream (recipe to follow)
Ginger-Spiced Whipped Creme Fraiche (recipe to follow)
Fresh berries of your choosing
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
Form 2 or 3 rounds of filo into each form of a mini muffin tin. Brush lightly with melted butter.
Bake for 8-10 minutes, until golden and crispy. Set aside to cool.
Pipe or spoon lemon cream into each cup. Pipe a dot of creme fraiche over the lemon cream, and garnish with a fresh berry.
Pierre Hermes’ French Lemon Cream
Adapted from Baking: From My Home to Yours by Dorie Greenspan
1 cup sugar
Finely grated zest of 3 lemons
4 large eggs
3/4 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice (from 4 to 5 lemons)
2 sticks plus 5 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature and cut into tablespoon-sized pieces
Getting ready: Have a thermometer, preferably an instant-read, a strainer and a blender (first choice) or food processor at the ready. Bring a few inches of water to a simmer in a saucepan.
Put the sugar and zest in a large metal bowl that can be fitted into the pan of simmering water.
Off heat, work the sugar and zest together between your fingers until the sugar is moist, grainy and very aromatic. Whisk in the eggs followed by the lemon juice.
Fit the bowl into the pan (make certain the water doesn’t touch the bottom of the bowl) and cook, stirring with the whisk as soon as the mixture feels tepid to the touch. You want to cook the cream until it reaches 180°F. As you whisk the cream over heat—and you must whisk constantly to keep the eggs from scrambling—you’ll see that the cream will start out light and foamy, then the bubbles will get bigger, and then, as the cream is getting closer to 180°F, it will start to thicken and the whisk will leave tracks. Heads up at this point—the tracks mean the cream is almost ready. Don’t stop whisking and don’t stop checking the temperature. And have patience—depending on how much heat you’re giving the cream, getting to temp can take as long as 10 minutes.
As soon as you reach 180°F, pull the cream from the heat and strain it into the container of a blender (or food processor); discard the zest. Let the cream rest at room temperature, stirring occasionally, until it cools to 140°F, about 10 minutes.
Turn the blender to high and, with the machine going, add about 5 pieces of butter at a time. Scrape down the sides of the container as needed while you’re incorporating the butter. Once the butter is in, keep the machine going—to get the perfect light, airy texture of lemon-cream dreams, you must continue to beat the cream for another 3 minutes. If your machine protests and gets a bit too hot, work in 1-minute intervals, giving the machine a little rest between beats.
Pour the cream into a container, press a piece of plastic wrap against the surface to create an airtight seal and chill the cream for at least 4 hours or overnight. When you are ready to use the cream, just whisk to loosen it.
Creme Fraiche Whipped Cream
1 cup whipping cream
3 tbsps sugar
1/2 tsp ground ginger
1/2 cup creme fraiche
Whip cream until it begins to thicken. Sprinkle with sugar. continue to beat cream until it
makes a soft, lazy peak.
Fold or gently whisk in creme fraiche.
Dollop on everything.