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One of my favorite and easiest dinners is a simple risotto with spring vegetables.  I knocked this one up a notch by grilling the asparagus and the chicken.  I used fresh-shelled peas, homegrown asparagus and some organic chicken.  I had some wonderful Australian chardonnay (a gift from a recent guest) to use in the risotto (and then for drinking along with it) and a touch of onion, garlic and lemon with a palm full of Parmesan to bring the flavors to a taste bud high.  It worked.  I decided to garnish the dish with some fresh chopped parsley and some toasted walnuts with a hint of walnut oil.  Nothing else was necessary for dinner except that chilled crisp glass of wine.  Dessert?  Hmm, would you believe Girl Scout cookies?  Yes, that’s the truth.  Served with a dollop of Greek yogurt and a squirt of local honey.  Break the cookies up with a spoon, mix them with the yogurt and honey.  Divine.  Trust me.

Here’s the small dish:

risotto dinner4

And here is the large dish:risotto dinner

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Whether you purchase organic lemons, receive them as a gift from a friend with a tree or grow them yourself, fresh lemons plucked right off the tree are ideal for this sweet, tart cake.

An easily adapted cake, it can be baked as a small sheet cake in a 9″ x 12″ pan or as I did in two 8″ x 8″ pans so that I could give one away.

If you are in a creative mood and want to take this further, one suggestion is to cook up some lemon curd and put it in between two of these Lemon Yogurt cakes.  Then sprinkle the top with some confectioner’s sugar.

Another favorite in our house is to cut up the cake into small cubes almost the size of standard dice.  Fill the bottom of a wine glass.  Add a layer of softened fresh strawberry sorbet or fresh strawberry ice cream.  Continue layering until the glass is full.  Freeze until the strawberry confection is firm and serve with a smile and a sprinkle of blueberries with or without a dollop of lemon curd or cream.

Here is the cake recipe ready for your personalization and enjoyment.

Madame Donna’s Fresh Lemon Yogurt Cake

Preheat the oven to 350˚ while you assemble the ingredients.

2 sticks unsalted butter, room temperature

2 cups sugar

3 whole eggs

3 cups King Arthur all purpose flour

1 teaspoon baking soda

1 ½ cups plain Greek yogurt

(you can use regular plain yogurt but it will lack the rich texture and additional tartness of Greek yogurt)

Grated lemon zest from two very large lemons or four small

2 Tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice

1 generous pinch of table salt

Approximately ½ teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg

Glaze (can be prepared while the cake bakes*)

½ cup freshly squeezed lemon juice

½ cup sugar

Put both ingredients into a small saucepan.

Heat over medium high heat until the sugar melts, taking care not to bring it to a boil.

When the cake is done, brush the lemon glaze on the warm cake.

Assembly:

Squeeze lemons to equal ¾ cup of fresh juice and grate lemons for zest.  Set aside.

Sift the flour and baking soda together into a small bowl.

In a mixing bowl, combine the butter and sugar until light in color and fluffy.

Add the three eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition.

Add the lemon zest, nutmeg and salt to the mixture.  Beat to combine.

Add the flour & baking soda mixture and beat well.

Add the 2 Tablespoons lemon zest and Greek yogurt, beating about 5 minutes more to aerate and combine.

Pour the batter into pan/s and smooth the top with a spatula.

Bake for 30 minutes if making two small cakes or 45 minutes for one sheet cake.  Since oven temperatures vary, be sure to check on your cakes after they have baked about 20 minutes.  The tops should be slightly puffed and golden brown indicating doneness.

*Remember, this is the best time to make your lemon juice/sugar glaze.

When an inserted toothpick comes out clean, remove the cake/s from the oven to a cooling rack.  Let cool for at least 15 minutes.

Brush the cakes with the lemon sugar glaze several times.  Invert the cakes onto a cooling rack set over a baking sheet and brush with the lemon sugar glaze again until the glaze is gone.

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