|Lime Square with Pistachio-Pecan-Graham Cracker Crust|
Yesterday was Cinco de Mayo (the 5th of May). I thought it was just a spring celebration held by Mexicans but its a bit more than that. Its actually a celebration of Mexican heritage and culture AND the date commemorates the unlikely victory Mexico had over the French on May 5, 1862. It wasn't the day they won their independence but marked the first time the well equipped French army had been beaten by a smaller force and the last time a country in the Americas was invaded by a European force. I had no idea Mexico was fighting for independence while in the U.S. a Civil War was raging. Wow. I realize I don't have an incredible amount of knowledge about the history of Canada or Mexico.
In case you were dying to know, Mexico celebrates its Independence Day on September 16th based on the day their war for independence from Spain began in 1810. They officially became independent from Spain in 1821 only to be taken over later by the French. After the U.S. Civil War ended, the U.S. military joined Mexico to help them defeat the French. Craziness. Well, that's your history nugget of the day.
Becky and I decided that to celebrate Cinco de Mayo our weekly night of cooking should involve Mexican dishes. We started with Carnitas (future post) and I wanted a vegetable for the menu. No, I do not count beans. After looking around for a few minutes, an idea that my friend Mao had mentioned months ago came to my mind: What about gazpacho? (More on gazpacho later too.) To complete the meal, I suggested lime bars.
Mel had picked the lime bars out several weeks ago and they were intriguing for two reasons:
1) The filling was pretty much the same as the one she'd introduced me to for lime/lemon meringue pie
2) The crust had pistachios in it. (The crust for the other pie was a no-frills graham cracker crust.)
As I tend to do though, I had to change it a bit. Nothing major, really. I did a 50/50 blend of pistachios and pecans. Pistachios are slow to shell and pecans are tasty. Next time, I'd do all pecans. Also, I used two limes and put part of the zest in the crust and part in the filling. I love amping the flavor!
There are many ways that people line pans to make desserts easier to remove and (maybe just as importantly) dishes easier to clean. Today's tip for this recipe is one I learned from David Lebovitz.
To prepare your pan, take a piece of foil and wrap it around the outside of your 8x8 (or 9x9) inch baking dish. Remove and sit the pre-shaped foil inside of your pan leaving a little hanging off the edges. When your dessert is cooled, you can lift it out of the pan and slide away the foil. This enables quick and effortless serving on the platter of your choice. Bonus: The pan has no stuck-on bits so its a cinch to clean.
Lime Bars with Pistachio-Pecan-Graham Cracker Crust (inspired by Culinary in the Desert)
1/3 c. shelled pistachios*
1/3 c. pecan halves*
1 sleeve of graham crackers (minus two of the cracker sheets, so minus 8 mini graham crackers), ground to
make 1 c. of graham cracker crumbs
1/4 c. granulated sugar (This is just regular sugar.)
1 lime, freshly zested
1/8 tsp salt
4 Tbsp unsalted butter, melted
*optional, can use one type of nut, mixed nuts, or no nuts at all. If no nuts, use a full sleeve of graham crackers.
2 large egg yolks
14 oz can sweetened condensed milk
1 lime, freshly zested
juice from the 2 limes you have zested
2 Tbsp lime juice
Meringue: **optional, I hate wasting eggs whites
2 large egg whites
3 tsp. of sugar (There's a reason for this notation, trust me.)
Step 1: Crust
Preheat oven to 350 F.
Prepare an 8x8 or 9x9 inch baking pan by lining it with foil and letting a bit overhang on the sides.
In a food processor, crush the pistachios, pecans, and graham crackers. Pulse until all form a fine flour.
(No food processor? No problem. If you have a hammer/rubber mallet and a plastic ziplock bag, beat the nuts and grahams to a fine powder. The hammer/mallet method will take longer but you might find it relieves some tension that the food processor can't.)
Add the sugar, zest, and salt. Blend well. Add the butter and stir or pulse to combine, depending on your method. You can easily stir this mixture in a bowl.
Press the mixture into a baking pan either only the bottom only or up to 1" of the sides of the pan. I'm a bottom only kind of gal but suit yourself.
Bake 8-12 minutes until lightly browned. Set aside crust to cool for 30 minutes.
Step 2: Filling
Whisk together egg yolks and sweetened condensed milk. Add lime juice (~ 1/2 c.) and zest from one lime. Whisk together until smooth and combined.
Pour filling into prepared, cooled crust. If making a meringue, go to step 3. If not, skip to step 4.
Step 3: Meringue
In a small bowl with deep sides, beat the egg whites until peaks form.
Add 1 tsp of sugar at a time, and mix well after each addition.
Pipe or spoon your meringue on top of your filling.
Step 4: Bake
Bake 13-15 minutes at 350 F. The filling should be set as a gel to the touch or the meringue should be browned.
Allow to cool on a counter completely. This will take 30-90 minutes.
Chill in a refrigerator at least 1 hour before serving.
Step 5: Serving
If you want to serve these and make them look nice, you may want to skip the meringue.
Remove the foil from the pan and scoot the whole square onto a serving platter. They'll slice nicely.
These are good. They're like a pie I already knew I enjoyed so that was no great surprise. I did find I particularly liked the flavor of the pecan in the crust but that the pistachio wasn't that noticeable above the stronger flavors of graham and pecan. In the future, I'd skip the pistachios and use pecans only. Its tasty any way you go about it though. If you have a nut allergy, use a full sleeve of graham crackers and skip the nuts.
Don't miss Mel's post! Head over to Fabulously Fun Food.