The saying goes, “when life gives you lemons, make lemonade.” Or, make a lemon pie, lemon zest pasta, or lemon curd.
I think of lemons as food gifts — their tangy juice, perfumed zest (grated rind) and fleshy pulp add a fresh spark of flavor to both sweet and savory dishes and have a way of harmonizing all the other ingredients in a recipe. And when combined with sugar, lemons add an irresistible tartness to many desserts.
Lemons originated in India and were brought to Europe in the first century A.D. by the Romans. Christopher Columbus brought the lemon to the new world on his second voyage in 1493.
Some lemon varieties are more acidic than others. Eureka and Lisbon are the two most common types of lemons, known for their bright yellow, medium-thick skins and very acidic flesh and juice.
In contrast, the smooth-skinned Meyer lemon has a sweet, tangerine-like scent and lower acidity, but is often juicier than its more acidic cousins. Meyer lemons are a cross between a tart lemon and a sweet orange that was brought from China to the United States in 1908 by Frank Meyer. Pastry chefs usually can use less sugar in desserts made with Meyer lemons.
When buying lemons, look for fruit that has brightly colored skin and that feels heavy for its size. Refrigerated lemons will last for 2-3 weeks.
If using zest, remove with a zester (Microplane) before cutting. Bring lemons to room temperature before juicing. To get the most juice out of your lemons, microwave them for 10 to 15 seconds before squeezing.
When lemons are in abundance, pour juice into ice cube containers and freeze to enjoy later. As for that lemonade — squeeze fresh juice and add to well-chilled sparkling or still water with lots of ice. Add sugar to taste and drink immediately.
Carole Kotkin is manager of the Ocean Reef Club cooking school.
Blood Orange, Lemon, and Red Onion Salad
This recipe is adapted from “Autentico — Cooking Italian, the Authentic Way” by Rolando Beramendi, St. Martin’s Griffin publishers ($35.00).
The subtle new oak notes and bright cherry, white pepper, and clove of The Calling Pinot Noir 2016 ($29.00) from Russian River, Sonoma County, California, along with the spiciness that is classic to the region match well with the sweet and acidic elements in this salad.
Author Beramendi writes, “This recipe requires the ingredients to be sliced to the same thickness. Each mouthful results in equal bites of every flavor and texture. If you have good knife skills, use them, but an inexpensive Japanese mandoline slicer is a worthwhile piece of kitchen equipment.” The Benriner mandoline is available online and in many kitchen stores.
1 cup (250 ml | 240 g) white wine vinegar
Coarse sea salt
1 small red onion, sliced into ¼-inch slices and separated
3 blood oranges, peeled and sliced into ¼-inch slices
1 lemon, peeled and sliced into
¼ cup (50 g) Taggiasca or Kalamata olives, pitted and halved
¼ cup (5 g) fresh flat-leaf parsley leaves, torn
Robust extra-virgin olive oil, to finish
Line a plate with paper towels and set aside. Bring 2 cups water to a boil in a medium pot. Add the vinegar and a pinch of salt. Add the onion slices and blanch for 30 seconds. Using a pair of tongs or a slotted spoon, transfer the onions to the paper towel-lined plate and dry thoroughly. Arrange the orange and lemon slices and the blanched onions in an overlapping pattern on a platter. Scatter the olive halves over the top. Drizzle with olive oil, sprinkle with the parsley, and serve.
Yield: 4 servings