I meant to post this yummy dessert last month, but better late than never, right? When I was in San Jose for my high school reunion, I stayed with one of my best friends from high school. She and her husband had warned me to come prepared with some bags so that I could relieve them of their surplus of Meyer lemons. I thought they were exaggerating and figured I’d go home with maybe 10 or so, along with a few for mom. But when I went out to their trees, I was absolutely shocked! Both trees’ branches were bending under the weight of the enormous amount of beautifully huge lemons. Each time I thought I’d cleared one branch, another million lemons seemed to appear. Needless to say, I left with at least 50 of these sweetly scented fruits, and I’ve been using them for a number of different things, from regular cooking to fresh lemonade.
Aside from the lemons, they sent me home with some lovely fresh oregano and some kumquats, which was a welcome surprise. I hadn’t had kumquats in ages so I happily grabbed several, with no real clue about how I’d use them. Fortunately, my train ride back home to Sacramento is long enough so that you can do a lot of thinking, and it occurred to me that it might be fun to put the two together, since they’re both from the citrus family. I figured a simple little cheesecake parfait made from the two would be perfect for summertime, and I was right. The tartness of the kumquats go perfectly with the lightness of the sweet Meyer lemon cheesecake, making this a creamy, yet refreshing dessert for a balmy summer night.
Because lemon trees can be rather common in many backyards across the country, try to take advantage of any fruit these trees may be bearing right now. Not only will you get better tasting produce, but you’ll be saving yourself some money by not going to the store to pay for what you can pick on your own. Don’t have a tree? Do what I did and relieve your friends or family of some of their excess fruit. In our fast-paced, instant-gratification society, we seem to have forgotten what it’s like to share with our neighbors and friends. Have a little fruit-picking party and spend some time with friends while reconnecting with nature.
For those of you who don’t have access to kumquats (though they sell them at most major grocery store chains), don’t fret: you can acheive the same visual effect with some mandarin orange sections. Though you won’t end up with the same tart v. sweet juxtaposition as you would with the kumquats, they’ll still give a cool, juicy kick to the creamy cheesecake. And if you’re worried about the logistics of cheesecake + tiny shot glass, stop this instant! This is PGEW-in-the-summertime cheesecake, which means quick, easy, and no-bake. In the sweltering heat of Sacramento (and other super-hot places like the South, Arizona, etc.), there’s no reason to make matters worse by turning on an oven; save yourself some time and cut back on your energy costs by making this simple, creamy concoction. Lastly, don’t limit yourself to regular shot glasses for this one! This recipe yields quite a bit of cheesecake, so you can use regular parfait glasses or small juice glasses to serve these if you prefer.
Meyer Lemon Cheesecake Shots with Candied Kumquats (yields enough for about 15 dessert shots; total cost per serving: ~ $0.85)
1 can condensed milk (regular, not low-sugar)
1/4 c Meyer lemon juice
Zest of one Meyer lemon
30-40 kumquats (1-2 packages)
3/4 c sugar
1 T honey
Rinse the kumquats well and pat dry. Cut each one in half crosswise, remove the seeds, then cut the halves into quarters. Combine the water and sugar in a saucepan and heat over medium heat until the sugar has completely dissolved. Add the kumquats, reduce heat to medium-low, and cook for about 15 minutes, or until the kumquats have softened completely. Remove from heat and allow them to cool in their syrup for a few minutes, then separate them from the syrup. Set aside.
With an electric mixer, whip the softened cream cheese at medium speed until nice and creamy. Add the condensed milk and mix until completely combined, followed by the Meyer lemon juice. Mix for about 2-3 minutes; you will notice that the lemon juice will thicken your mixture significantly, which means it is almost ready to serve. Lastly, add the grated zest of one Meyer lemon and gently fold into the cheesecake mixture.
Assemble your parfait shots by layering the cheesecake and a small amount of the candied kumquats until your shot glasses are filled. Refrigerate for at least one hour, serve after a nice dinner, and enjoy!