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A Little Summer Dinner Party

My mother-in-law, Pat is visiting us in Colorado for a few days – a blessed relief for her from the scorching Texas heat. During her last visit, Randy and I hosted a large dinner party on the lawn in his mother’s honor, so it goes without saying that a dinner party is on the "to do" list for this summer’s visit.

This evening's dinner party will be an intimate affair for nine - hopefully seated on our large veranda if Mother Nature cooperates. I’ve focused pretty heavily on locally-produced ingredients, from the Colorado beef and bison steaks, to Olathe corn-on-the-cob, Rocky Ford cantaloupe for the fruit salad, and bell peppers, tomatoes, and fresh greens in various salads. It’s a make-ahead menu except for the grilled steaks, which means I can visit with our guests when they arrive instead of running around the kitchen, and Randy can “bond” with the guys around the grill.

As I write, the filling for lemon meringue pie is cooling in the saucepan before I pour it into my pie shell and pile it high with meringue. There’s nothing local about the pie, except that I made it in my Swan’s Nest kitchen, but its cool, refreshing flavor and silky texture will be the ideal finale to tonight’s late-summer gathering. I enjoy nothing more than seeing smiles on my guests’ faces when they tuck into a memorable dessert, and this pie is a sure winner. I’m happy to share my recipe with you for your own summer gatherings. Enjoy!


  Lemon Meringue Pie
1 cup flour
1/2 cup sifted cake flour
1 tablespoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup cold unsalted butter, cut into 16 pieces
3 to 4 tablespoons ice water
1 1/4 cups sugar
1 package unflavored gelatin
1/4 cup cornstarch
1/4 teaspoon salt
3 egg yolks
1 1/2 cups water
1/2 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice (about 4 lemons)
1 teaspoon lemon zest
4 egg whites, at room temperature
1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
1/2 cup sugar

Place flours, sugar, and salt in the bowl of a food processor, pulse several times to mix. Add cold butter and pulse until butter is pea-size. Add ice water and pulse until the pastry forms a ball, adding a bit more ice water if the pastry feels dry. Remove the pastry, wrap it in plastic wrap, and chill at least 30 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Roll out the pastry on a floured pastry cloth or counter. Transfer the pastry to a 10-inch pie plate, flute the edges, and prick the bottom and sides of the crust with a fork. Bake 10 to 12 minutes until the pastry is golden browned. Remove it from the oven and cool completely.

In a large saucepan, stir together the sugar, gelatin, cornstarch, and salt. Whisk in egg yolks, water, lemon juice, and zest. Cook the mixture over medium heat, stirring constantly, until it thickens and just comes to a boil. Remove the saucepan from the heat and set it aside 20 minutes to cool, stirring every 5 minutes. Pour the filling into the cooled pie shell.

In a large mixing bowl, whip egg whites and cream of tartar until the whites are foamy. Gradually add sugar, beating until the meringue is glossy and forms stiff peaks. With an offset spatula or knife, spread meringue over the lemon filling, sealing well at the edges of the pastry. Bake in a 400 degree oven 5 minutes until the meringue is pale brown. Cool 40 minutes, then chill at least 4 hours or until ready to serve.

Yield: 8 to 10 servings