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Lemon And Honey Tangerine Gratins

Everyday I wake up I count my blessings. Everynight I go to bed I think about the things I need to improve and realize that both my blessings and my shortcomings are numerous which makes me a standard-normal human being, and I am ok with that. What I am not ok with is being helpless when faced with death or diseases and wish I were a rocket scientist or super duper doctor working on some cure to help people. There are days I want to kick for not being a brainie and there are days I am fulfilled to focus on the things I know how to do, we all have to find our strong points and should stick to them. Being envious is a waste of time: maybe a rocket scientist can’t make as good a pie as my grandma’s?!!

Last Monday we had a couple friends of ours over for dinner, and as usual they came early in the evening so we could sit on the back porch and watch the sunset over the water (one of those blessings I am counting). We like to open a bottle of wine and get dinner ready together. He is an excellent cook and she has a personality to keep you entertained all evening. The evening started as usual until she announced she had pancreatic cancer, advanced stage. Silence fell upon us and B. went over her and just hugged her for a while, then him and finally said "Anything you guys need, anytime, day or night". I was not so quite vocal for the first couple of minutes. Flashbacks of my grandma and my brother dealing with chemo and radiation came rushing back and I kept starring at my feet. Clearly, you can’t say "it’s all going to work out", and "I’m sorry" seems so little.

She poured me another glass of wine and they started talking about their medical plans of attack. Invasive, long, painful…She talked about losing grip on the future, not knowing who she was anymore, that none of this fit in with being with their kids and grand kids. I finally broke my silence and said "Sometimes you don’t have to know the bigger picture or know for sure where you are heading. Sometimes it’s enough to know what’s next". She looked at me like I had become the Dalai Lama in the blink of an eye, then she said "So, what’s next?". The only words that came out were "Peeling tangerines for dessert". Silence again. "Oh crap, I have offended her" I thought. Everybody turned to me and bursted out laughing and she added "You have a funny and lovely way to put things in perspective"…Ah well, always count on me to put my foot in it!

I am kicking off this month Sugar High Friday with these light and refreshing Lemon tangerine Gratins. Honey tangerines are super juicy and quite flavorful and if you can’t find them where you are, feel free to substitute regular tangerines, clementines or even mandarins. We peeled the fruit and got most of the white membranes out and cut them in segments for the dish. The gratin part is sort of a cross between a custard and a creme brulee with its touch of flour and cream cheese. The original recipe called for mascarpone but the tub was being used for another purpose so cream cheese was the perfect substitute. For the top "gratin" part, I used half part brown sugar and half part white sugar and the blow torch to caramelize them but you could just as well put them under the broiler for a few minutes (keep your eyes on them though, they burn fast).

Lemon And Honey Tangerine Gratins:

Printable Recipe

Serves 4

1 1/4 cup milk
1/3 cup finely grated lemon zest
4 large egg yolks
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup all purpose flour
pinch of salt
3 Tb fresh lemon juice
1/2 cup heavy cream
1/2 cup cream cheese, at room temperature
4 honey tangerines (or 8 clementines or mandarins) peeled and cut into segments
14 cup brown sugar mixed with 1/4 cup white sugar for the top.

– Bring the milk and the zest to a simmer over medium heat. Remove from the heat and let stand to infuse for 10 minutes. Strain through a fine mesh sieve.
– Whisk the egg yolks with the sugar until pale yellow in a large mixing bowl. This can be done totally by hand. Add the flour and salt and whisk until just blended. Slowly add the warm milk to the egg mixture, whisking as you go along to prevent the eggs from curdling. Return the mixture on the stove and cook, stirring constantly over medium high heat until it becomes thick. Remove from the heat as soon as you see the first boiling bubbles on the surface. Pour the custard into a bowl, stir in the lemon juice and let cool to room temperature, whisking from time to time.
– Beat the cream with an electric mixer until soft peaks form, add the cream cheese and whisk until both are well combines. Add the whipped cream mixture to the cooled custard and fold gently to bring both masses together.
– Divide the tangerine segment among 4 dishes. Divide the custard mixture over each gratin dish. Sprinkle all evenly with the brown sugar/white sugar mixture and use a blow torch to caramelize the tops.
– If using the oven: preheat the oven to 425F and broil the custards 2 to 4 minutes depending on the strength of your oven.

Finally I would like to dedicate this post to another wonderful lady, Bri from the wonderful blog Figs With Bri who is right now fighting for a life trying to beat cancer. Though we have never met, Bri, from the moment I started reading, you made me laugh, you made me think, we visited and cheered each other and I just want to send your way a gazillion hugs and good vibes. I keep your family and husband in my daily thoughts, counting my blessings in the morning and trying to improve on my faults at night.

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The Closet Therapist May 7, 2008 um 5:43 pm

This post makes me happier that I wrote about you and your beautiful blog yesterday. Sometimes the only way to ground us in the face of uncertainty is counting on the steadiness of daily tasks, or dessert with friends. I can see you are a great friend, and all the best to your friends through their trials.

Anonymous May 7, 2008 um 5:58 pm

This post would be worth reading any day of any week but right now my family is dealing with a serious illness and it’s taking a big toll on a lot of people I care about.

I’m going to forward a link to your post to a few people who I think will find your story very comforting.

Thanks for this.

April May 7, 2008 um 6:08 pm

I will keep your friends in my thoughts and prayers!

The dessert looks great!

Michelle Beissel May 7, 2008 um 6:13 pm

Wonderful post–you are a sweetheart. I cried and then I laughed, really hard.

Great dessert, also!

LizNoVeggieGirl May 7, 2008 um 6:38 pm

Helen, as always, your stories have touched me very deeply – I too count my blessings everyday; and when something unexpected occurs (especially to a loved one/dear friend), I always remember NOT to take anything for granted.

Your Lemon & Honey-Tangerine Gratins certainly DO look refreshing, and are perfect for this month’s Sugar High Friday event :0)

Honeyed Hashette May 7, 2008 um 6:43 pm

Your story is so poignant and true. I really enjoyed reading this and I have already said a prayer for your friends and their family.

Lovely dessert from a lovely person.

Honeyed Hashette May 7, 2008 um 6:44 pm

On a funny note, I LOVE those dipping spoons. I used them until they break. I lost one, tragically, in the garbage disposal and yesterday broke a second on the edge of a sturdy bowl. Darn.

Memaw's memories May 7, 2008 um 6:52 pm

I’m so sorry for your friend. We never know what we will face tomorrow. Support her decisions and love her.

Anita (Married… with dinner) May 7, 2008 um 6:56 pm

I’m so sorry your friend is going through this, and that it’s bringing sadness to you and B. And I think you said just the right thing!

Naho @ Scrumptious Foods May 7, 2008 um 7:01 pm

I just spent an hour crying over something I wasn’t as good at as others… Thanks for such an inspiring post, I always find baking a way to put a sparkle in what seems to be the trouble of the moment. My prayers are with your friend. Take care.


Anonymous May 7, 2008 um 7:56 pm

Thanks for sharing a beautiful message with a heart felt story. My prayers are with your friends as well. Hope you have a blessed day.

Peter M May 7, 2008 um 8:16 pm

Sorry to hear of your friend’s situation. Do what you can to fill her remaining days with joy and remember..carpe diem!

Gretchen Noelle May 7, 2008 um 8:19 pm

Isn’t it amazing that we want so bad to be in control that we try to think through so many of the next steps and plans of our lives. It is true that at times we just have to take one step and not plan out the next 100. Sorry to hear about your friend and even the memories it brings up for you.

Cannelle Et Vanille May 7, 2008 um 8:43 pm

Wow Helen, that was a bittersweet post. Sad because a good friend is faced with hardship but sweet because she is lucky to have you and B as friends. Like you said, we have to count our blessings and as I just wrote on another blog, we can’t really be worrying about the future because the future is only the present.

That was truly inspirational and yes, you are no scientist or brain surgeon but you are a good friend and bring sweetness to many people.

Thank you Helen!

Ben May 7, 2008 um 8:46 pm

It is a strong feeling not being able to do more for the people we love and care about in difficult situations. But we are only human and we need to learn to live with that shortcoming. After all that is what makes us special.

Big hugs to you my dear friend and I hope the best to your friend in this dire hour.

Lydia (The Perfect Pantry) May 7, 2008 um 8:53 pm

A beautiful post, one I will share with some friends who are fighting their own battles with health right now. Sometimes the best thing we can give them is a moment of pure laughter. And pastry.

Lori May 7, 2008 um 9:40 pm

You are right, all we have is here and now. No one can predict the future. Too many variables, (like maybe a cure for pancreatic cancer) wouldnt that be wonderful. It is so scary. Indeed she is very blessed to have a person such as you!

You have such a beautiful heart that always shines through in your blog. So beautiful it is like your pastries!

Bron May 7, 2008 um 10:00 pm

No truer words were ever spoken, what an amazing friend you are Helen.
Many hugs and prayers for you and your friend.

Anonymous May 7, 2008 um 10:39 pm

Oh dear… I am so sorry to hear about your friend and I think your response was completely appropriate. What’s next? Keep living life… to the fullest and don’t let cancer stop you from it.
I recently lost a good friend to cancer and from her brave battle, I have learned that life is extremely precious. Continue to be a great friend (and your husband sounds like quite the man too…) and enjoy your time together. We are all here for who knows how long. Let’s make the best of it.

tapsfe May 7, 2008 um 11:07 pm

Do you already have a cool recipe (dessert of course) idea for mothers day?

That Girl May 7, 2008 um 11:24 pm

Honestly, your advice is some of the best given. Perspective and positive energy are the most important things!

strawberriesinparis May 8, 2008 um 12:05 am

helene! you are a brainy! there is no way someone with half an intellect could create the amazing concoctions you come up with!

(..and this is coming from a nerdy chemist…)

& bri is so blessed to have such a sweet friend as you!

glamah16 May 8, 2008 um 12:25 am

Pancreatic cancer. Thats a rough one. But your a amazing friend. All we can do is take it one day at a time. You all have the right attitude.

PheMom May 8, 2008 um 12:50 am

I think that what you told your friend was perfect and exactly right. I’m sure they appreciated it.

toontz May 8, 2008 um 1:56 am

Beautiful story. Being a good friend with a sense of humor goes a long way. We have had some very rough spots in our lives for the last 3 years, but you begin to appreciate the little things SO MUCH MORE! Having friends you can laugh with about your miseries are some of those little things.

Anonymous May 8, 2008 um 2:28 am

that was a lovely bittersweet post, and that’s such an inventive dish! it’s got my wheels spinning for SHF.

Kristen May 8, 2008 um 4:04 am

Cancer is such a horrible disease and it is hard to see someone you love going through it. I really love what you said though. More often than not we don’t know what things will be like far into the future so the only thing that we can focus on is the here and now.

On another note, the gratins look absolutely delcious!!!

Anonymous May 8, 2008 um 4:51 am

Sometimes it’s the little stuff that gets us through the big stuff. Thanks for sharing the story — and the recipe.

Anonymous May 8, 2008 um 5:24 am

Sorry to hear about your friend. You may not be a rocket scientist, but you were able to reach inside yourself and come up with the right words at the right time which is a gift that not all of us have. By the looks of it you’re also a gifted chef! These look fantastic:-)

Gigi May 8, 2008 um 5:52 am

Touching post Tartelette. And your right, sometimes we just have to live in the moment.

Bakerette May 8, 2008 um 6:33 am

thanks Helene, you too have motivated me. And this post also touched me beyond words. The same day my mother died I couldn’t do anything except work on a philosophy paper I had due. It seemed trivial to people around me but it definately got me through the worst part of it all. I hope other people find inspiration in your words.

Barbara May 8, 2008 um 7:18 am

I’m sorry for your friend Helene and for you. I’m sure you will be a great support. Wise words you have offered her too. For a long time I talked about my life before cancer and after cancer and longed to have my before cancer life back. The one day I found I no longer thought that way and realised my life was my life, before and after no longer mattered. I no longer live in the future, planning next week or next month or next year. I take each day as it comes. Some days I am so happy I feel my heart will burst out of my chest. Hugs to you both Helene.

Sylvie May 8, 2008 um 11:25 am

I’ll keep my fingers crossed that your friend can beat the cancer. There is never really anything to say in moments like that and I really like your way of looking at it.

Vanillaorchid May 8, 2008 um 11:52 am

I’m sorry about your friend.

I love the way you told your friend. You’re great with sense of humour.

The gratins are nice and yummy.

Ginny May 8, 2008 um 11:54 am

Beautiful post! I’ll be thinking about your friend.

Anonymous May 8, 2008 um 12:37 pm

I actually had all of the ingredients for this dessert laying around, and trust me that that never happens. I took it as a sign and made it last night. It was great! I’d never made anything quite like that before, but I really enjoyed it. I don’t think I had quite enough zest, so I ended up adding more lemon juice to get the lemon flavor I wanted. Also, the custard mixture thickened before any bubbles broke the surface, but not harm was done.

I think your answer to your friend about what’s next was perfect – what’s next is the normal stuff, as much as possible. I wish the best for her and her friends and family.

Carrie May 8, 2008 um 12:56 pm

You my dear, are a wonderful person and so eloquent. Thank you for a beautiful post. I know htat you are one blessing that many people count each day. You and your friends are in my prayers.


Patricia Scarpin May 8, 2008 um 12:57 pm

I have tears in my eyes, Helen. I’m glad my boss is away on a business trip. ๐Ÿ™‚
What a beautiful, heartfelt post. So moving. I’ll be praying for your friend as I am for Bri.

Veron May 8, 2008 um 3:54 pm

I too have a hard time finding words when faced with situations like this. You want to say everything will be fine but you know there will be tough times ahead. this gratins are such a great tribute!

Julie May 8, 2008 um 4:24 pm

Oh, Helen, you are a sweet soul and a good friend! Thanks for reminding me to count my blessings.

Gabi May 8, 2008 um 5:10 pm

You are so lovely!
Sometimes there are not words that can be said but the need to continue making small moments. They are all that really count in the end- a lifetime of small moments strung together. I wish your friend and Bri and all who fight for their lives comfort, success and friends like you!

Unknown May 8, 2008 um 6:51 pm

What a wonderfully moving story. I love your posistive outlook…and your inspiring dessert. I can’t wait to try it out.

On another note — I just returned from a visit with my sister in Charleston…your city gets lovelier each time I visit. We lunched at a wonderful restaurant on Pinckney St called Cru — curious if you’ve been?

Y May 8, 2008 um 10:35 pm

All the best to your friend. It’s a long hard road, I’m sure, but I hope she makes it through.

Deborah May 9, 2008 um 12:38 am

I am so sorry to hear about your friend, and I hope all goes well with the treatments.

I am dying over this dessert – because just a couple of hours ago I was at Costco, picked up this book and opened to this recipe. I was this close to buying the book to make this for SHF!!

Anonymous May 9, 2008 um 2:10 am

This story is so touching, tears to our eyes. So sorry to hear of this; the only thing you can do at this time, is to be there when they need you and when they don’t! Thoughts are with you all at this time.

MyKitchenInHalfCups May 9, 2008 um 5:18 am

You are rare Helen. Many times the only way to the future is to hand in the present. Our present is the gift of time now.
Lemon and Honey the sweet and tart of life, your gratins are lovely.
Thank you once again.

Manggy May 9, 2008 um 8:50 am

Helene, if you think you are bad at comforting people, I think I am worse at it! I always think I’m messing up and making things worse with the things I say, and trying to be optimistic– but I’m sure my friends just appreciate me being there for them. I’m sure your friend really appreciates you, of course!

I’ve yet to use my torch! I’m still too afraid, haha ๐Ÿ™‚

Anonymous May 9, 2008 um 10:59 am

hey tartlette
i really like your bog,you are so down to earth and loving,,one can’t but wish that you’re the sweet neighbour next door ๐Ÿ™‚
god bless you and her:)

Kajal@aapplemint May 9, 2008 um 12:19 pm

Cancer really has affected so many peoples lives. I’ve lost many close ones to it , and i can only pray for those who suffer. This is a wonderful post helen. Wish your friend well. And ofcourse thank God once again for his blessings.

Natalie, aka "Sheltie Girl" May 9, 2008 um 1:23 pm

This comment has been removed by the author.

Natalie, aka "Sheltie Girl" May 9, 2008 um 1:24 pm

Helen – It is amazing how many of us are touched by cancer. Whether it is from our own family, our friends or ourselves. It is fabulous that she has a wonderful friend in you, to be there with her while their lives change. Not all friends or even family are able to cope with the news that they/you have cancer.

This is a beautiful dish and I’m so glad she was with you to share the peeling of the tangerines…making memories together.

Natalie @ Gluten a Go Go
2 1/2 Year Breast Cancer Survivor

Obsessive Foodie or Food Addict….You Decide May 9, 2008 um 3:01 pm

Seems like everywhere I turn lately people I know and don’t know but hear about are getting sick w/illnesses they are fighting for their lives for. It is sooo discouraging and heart wrenching. Certainly makes you face your own mortality which is scary! Hopefully the honey tangerine brulee’s put a little happiness into the day. I usually lose my appetite over this stuff though. All your friends will be mentioned in my prayers!

Jeanne May 9, 2008 um 4:22 pm

Oh how awful about your friend. Such a long battle ahead… But at least she has you by her side and a strong support structure is a huge indicator of survival rates. And as for "putting your foot in it", nonsense – the people who I know who have had cancer have all said they appreciate some sparks of normality amid a life that has suddenly become wholly abnormal for them. Hugs to you and your friend.

As for the recipe, wowee! I have been looking for a sweet gratin recipe since I had rhubarb gratin at a restaurant recently and fell in love. I think I’ve found my recipe ๐Ÿ™‚

Anonymous May 9, 2008 um 5:14 pm

Looks great! I always thought gratins were supposed to be savory, but nice job stepping outside the box!

May May 9, 2008 um 10:51 pm

Hi Tartelette, you have a lovely blog with great recipes! I’ll keep reading ๐Ÿ™‚

Sorry to hear about your friend. Wishing her all the best health. You seem like a great friend, I’m sure you’ll help her alot during this tough time.

Btw, thanks for visiting my blog and your great comments!

Jen Yu May 10, 2008 um 2:05 am

My dear friend, you are prolific and I have been busy, only to find this post now. Sometimes I think it’s scarier for the ones who aren’t sick, but must watch their beloved friends and family endure such attacks on their lives, only to be left feeling helpless. Life is not fair, this much I have learned. That is why we must make the most of it, the most of every day because while I have cancer now, I could just as easily be crushed under a rock tomorrow – ironic? ๐Ÿ™‚ What is our mark in this world if we cannot love and be loved and bring joy to those around us? I know that during my treatment both those big and little gestures of friendship and love from my dearest friends and family and from people – wonderful people like you – whom I’ve never met, have kept my spirits high, hopeful, happy. We do what we can, but I dare say the saddest part for me would to be forgotten and left in isolation. Cancer isolates. Friends and family can make the heart full. Love you and I am hoping the absolute best outcome for your friend. My heart is with her. xxoo

Susan @ SGCC May 10, 2008 um 4:31 am

Oh Helen, when will it ever end! I feel like we are under seige with all of this cancer. It is everywhere! At this moment my beautiful assistant and good friend is at Moffatt Cancer Center fighting for her life for the second time in a year.

I’m so sorry to hear about your friend. What can you say to news like that! You were so right with your advice. Sometimes the only thing we can do is put one foot in front of the other and take things one step at a time. You are a wise woman.

Kat May 11, 2008 um 1:47 am

It is a lovely post- I’m so sorry to hear about your friend. Perhaps it distracted you because I believe your recipe should read "add" the cream cheese and wisk… not what you actually wrote. ๐Ÿ™‚

PheMom May 11, 2008 um 6:55 am

I for one am thrilled to see all the citrus coming our way! You inspired me to make some Raspberry Lime muffins (not yet even my entry to SHF though… still thinking about something really special for that). Anyway, I wanted to let you know I’ve given you an award. Go check it out on my blog (and a giveaway too!)

Kelly-Jane May 11, 2008 um 3:01 pm

Hugs to you and your friends and hubby too. I’m not sure what else to say, but definite hugs!

Kelly-Jane May 11, 2008 um 3:01 pm

Hugs to you and your friends and hubby too. I’m not sure what else to say, but definite hugs!

maison lobet May 12, 2008 um 1:58 pm

Dalai Helen – has a nice ring to it. Sometimes life sucks, I know all too well, but nothing like a beautiful dessert to make it a little sweeter…

Anonymous May 14, 2008 um 11:48 pm

Helen, your dessert looks absolutely scrumptious.
Thank you for your prayers and well wishes for my healing, and I’m sure you are a wonderful comfort and resource to your friend. Not that she solicited it, but my advice is take one day/decision/procedure at a time, and advocate for the best healing options possible. Even if it means going against "conventional wisdom". Everything is so scary, but we have more power than we think…to heal, to make good choices, to insist on a quiet moment to make a decision rather than rush into something for the wrong reasons. You guys are in my prayers.
xoxo Bri

Anonymous May 24, 2008 um 11:49 pm

Dear, check your printable recipe: I believe you have some typos… great recipe anyway, will try it asap!

Lizzie January 11, 2009 um 4:35 am

Wow! I just made this recipe, and it was delicious!! Thanks so much for posting it.

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