Cookie Monster: Lemon Polenta Cookies

Carrie Vasios

My work desk sits in front of a window which overlooks a private court. The court is ringed by houses with decks and back yards (this is San Francisco), and one of those yards holds the most fertile lemon trees I've ever encountered. Or maybe I've just never had the chance to watch a lemon tree grow, hour by hour, day by day, as if in a super-extended time lapse video, but those things produce a ton of fruit.

I watch the small white flowers bud, leaf, and bloom; then grow into yellow orbs that swell and bloat until they shrivel back down or drop, swollen, from the branches. In the almost 12 months that I've been here, I've never seen a single lemon picked from that tree.

In my opinion, these private court people should be fined for waste. They let all this fruit die when there are people sitting, just out of arm's reach (damn locked gate) salivating over their bounty. I buy a lot of lemons—a huge netted bag every few days. And every time I do, I curse these people. They have a gardener. Why don't they ask him to pick at least a few low-hanging fruit?

I've thought about procuring a super-extendo fruit picker, standing at the edge of the gate, cranking it out, and picking their fruit. But someone reminded me that illegal produce picking was how Rapunzel ended up in the tower, and something about living in what seems to be the only gated community in the whole city makes me hesitant to mess with these people and their trees.

It's especially frustrating when I make cookies like these, which are so easy and so perfect for an afternoon snack. In every other way they're pantry cookies, and if I had endless lemons, I'd throw them together all the time. They have an interesting texture: soft yet slightly grainy from the polenta. The combination of lemon juice and zest is aggressive, as I like lemon cookies that really pop. This being summer, I've been eating them smeared with a layer of vanilla ice cream and topped with blueberries as a little mid-day snack.