Happy Independence Day, I guess.

Here's the thing. I am not so into July 4. I understand it's our nation's birthday and blah blee bloo. I just find the whole day... sad, kind of. I've spent several July 4ths (Julys 4th?) recovering from horrible breakups and a recent one fighting with an airline about losing my luggage.

And I don't really dig fireworks and the pre-fireworks festivities always seem to start at odd times. So you're waiting around all day, then you have to schlep somewhere to sit on a blanket and crane your neck for 45 mnutes. And I can't really stand the "1812 Overture." So, in a nutshell, July 4? Not my favorite.

But. I don't want to be Debbie Downer; A lot of people love the holiday. It's in the middle of the summer, so it's kind of a nice opportunity to have a party, and there's usually grilling and sometimes even swimming and I am a fan of both of those things.

So recently I've tried to rethink my attitude towards July 4, focusing on the part I DO like, which is the food part. I'm not going to make a flag cake or even flag cupcakes (baby steps, people), but I can bring something to the party that is refreshing, a little less sweet than many desserts, and sooooper easy. Seriously, these things take like no work.

I used fresh key limes to make 3/4 cups of juice, and i can tell you that I squeezed approximately 12,000 limes. So save yourself the hassle and use bottled juice.

Key Lime Bars

Brown Sugar Shortbread Base
1 1/2 sticks (3/4 cup) unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup packed light brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt

Key Lime Topping
4 large eggs
1 1/2 cups sugar
3/4 cup key lime juice (fresh or from a bottle)
1/3 cup all-purpose flour
Confectioners' sugar

Preheat oven to 350°F. Line a 13 x 9 x 2-inch baking pan with parchment.

In a medium bowl, combine all of the ingredients and mix with your hands until the mixture looks like damp sand (the good kind to build sandcastles out of). Sprinkle the mixture evenly over the bottom of the prepared baking pan. Press with your hands or a spatula to make
the layer even. Bake until golden, about 20 minutes. While the shortbread is baking, prepare the topping.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the eggs and sugar until combined. Stir in lime juice and flour. Slowly pour the mixture evenly over the hot shortbread. Bake until set, about 25 minutes. Let cool completely in the pan before cutting into bars. Sprinkle with confectioners' sugar before serving.


leftover MELON! sorbet

it's my first summer back in texas! i'd be lying if i said i hadn't forgotten just how very, very, VERY HOT it can get. but what i'm gaining in thermometer numbers is being made up in other ways: no sticky (stinky!) subway ride; no window units (central air, baby!) and (slightly) less humidity (my makeup actually stays where it's supposed to). so it works out, kind of. (and the a/c in my little car gets COLD.)

the one good thing about summer starting in, oh, MAY, is that the season for summer vegetables and fruits starts much earlier. the corn is amaaaaazing right now, like candy. and we've had beautiful tomatoes for several weeks. and the FRUIT! ohhhhh, the fruit. i'm overwhelmed when i go to the grocery store by the sheer volume of peaches and berries and plums and MELONS! (cue joann worley)

while i'm a huge fan of all things berry (i kind of have to be) and stone fruits rock my world... good lord i love MELONS! i can't get enough of them, for REALS. That sweet, heady, almost floral aroma of a perfectly ripe MELON! gives me such a thrill every time!

but if you're like me, you can't finish a whole MELON! in the time it takes for it to go from perfect to grody mush. throwing away food makes me sad for many reasons, but throwing away something like a once-perfect MELON! ... i can't even think about it.

so to avoid drama, i like to make my leftover MELON! into sorbet... it keeps for a couple of weeks (or i guess it does; it's never lasted that long in my house) and the flavor is NEARLY as awesome as a freshly sliced one.

Choose your favorite kind of MELON!; I've been nuts about Galias this year, but i've also made this with honeydew and cantaloupe. Watermelon would be great too, just strain the puree to made sure all of the seeds are gone. I also use white wine or leftover champagne in my sorbets (keeps them from freezing too solid); you certainly don't have to. Brewed mint tea would be a perfect substitute, or just use water.

Leftover MELON! Sorbet
Makes about 1 quart

6 cups MELON! (in 1-inch cubes)
1/4 cup white wine
2 tablespoons lime juice

Combine all the ingredients in a blender (you may have to work in batches). Blend to a mostly smooth liquid. Refrigerate until cold (about 2 hours), then freeze in an ice cream maker according to the directions for your particular machine (mine took about 15 minutes). Have some right away, then cover and store the rest in the freezer.