The azaleas and wisteria are beginning to bud in Charleston and residents are looking forward to cleaning off their boats, dusting off the picnic baskets and lawn chairs and hitting the great outdoors.
Flowers abound at all of the plantations along the Ashley River from Magnolia to Drayton Hall to Middleton Place so check them out if you’re passing through town.
As we tilt toward spring, one can’t help but look forward to the Spoleto Festival (17 day art festival in Charleston) Finale which takes place on Middleton Plantation and involves a-come-as you-are-and-bring-your-own-stuff picnic under the stars as the festival orchestra plays on the butterfly lakes of the old plantation over looking the river. The evening is complete with a spectacular fireworks display overhead. Here is the link to this year’s finale event: http://spoletousa.org/events/finale-red-stick-ramblers/
I have some happy memories of picnicking at Middleton with friends. They usually involve big blankets, flip flops kicked off, fried chicken, deviled eggs, pimento cheese, some nice wine and lemon squares for dessert.
I’m the dessert person, usually, since I have an odd affinity for baking (even though I can’t cook regular food worth a darn.)
Here is the recipe. Happy Spring and happy picnicking!
For the crust:
- 1/2 pound unsalted butter, at room temperature
- 1/2 cup granulated sugar
- 2 cups flour
- 1/8 teaspoon kosher salt
For the filling:
- 6 extra-large eggs at room temperature
- 3 cups granulated sugar
- 2 tablespoons grated lemon zest (4 to 6 lemons)
- 1 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
- 1 cup flour
- Confectioners’ sugar, for dusting
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
For the crust, cream the butter and sugar until light in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Combine the flour and salt and, with the mixer on low, add to the butter until just mixed. Dump the dough onto a well-floured board and gather into a ball. Flatten the dough with floured hands and press it into a 9 by 13 by 2-inch baking sheet, building up a 1/2-inch edge on all sides. Chill.
Bake the crust for 15 to 20 minutes, until very lightly browned. Let cool on a wire rack. Leave the oven on.
Cut into squares or triangles and dust with confectioners’ sugar.
For more info. on Beth Webb Hart’s novels (loaded with southern food imagery) click here