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Lemons? Sweet!

Tender peels, fragrant fruit. Bright yellow Meyers are endlessly inspiring.

January 16, 2008|Amy Scattergood | Times Staff Writer

IF Cezanne had lived not in France but in Southern California, his still lifes would have overflowed with Meyer lemons. Plump, smooth-skinned, colored an unmistakable dark yellow -- canary yellow, the color of egg yolks or the sun at noon -- they're sweeter than other lemons, with an intoxicating aroma that has hints of honey and thyme.

Now is the perfect time to revel in them, as the harvest peaks and farmers market stalls, produce aisles and, if you're lucky, backyard trees are loaded with fruit. A cross between a lemon and a sweet orange, imported to the U.S. from China exactly 100 years ago by the man whose name they bear, the Meyer lemon is a furiously addictive fruit.

With sweeter juice, a thinner peel, less acid and a more floral scent (and taste) than other lemon varieties, Meyers are as much fun to cook with as they would be to paint.

In fact, we're counting the ways. High on the list are a few fantastic recipes. Slide slices of Meyer lemons under the skin of a pair of Cornish game hens, strew the roasting pan with more, then toss in some fennel and olives. Or try chef Marcus Samuelsson's method of quick-preserving citrus peels and use the result -- tart and salty and utterly lemony -- in a fantastically colorful dish of spicy piri piri shrimp and black rice. On the sweet side, make a Meyer lemon ice cream, loading the custard with peel as well as juice -- and a hint of cardamom, the spicy notes bringing out the floral depth of the Meyer's flavor. (This recipe is inspired by longtime Chez Panisse pastry chef Lindsey Shere, one of the first to put Meyer lemons on the culinary map.)

There are probably more things -- in heaven, on Earth, in citrus groves -- that you can do with these yellow beauties than we can dream of. But we can try.

Here are the top 100 things to do with a Meyer lemon.--

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100 THINGS TO DO WITH A MEYER LEMON

1. Make Meyer lemonade.

2. Make roasted Cornish game hens with Meyer lemons, olives and fennel (see recipe).

3. Make shrimp piri piri with black rice and chef Marcus Samuelsson's "quick-preserved" Meyer lemons (see recipe).

4. Make Meyer lemon-cardamom ice cream (see recipe).

5. Assemble sandwiches of thinly sliced lemons, smoked salmon and sour cream on pumpernickel bread.

6. Candy the peel, dusting with superfine sugar.

7. To a risotto made with mascarpone and Parmesan, add some grated Meyer lemon peel.

8. Take a cue from Quinn Hatfield of Hatfield's in Los Angeles and pour yourself a lemon gimlet (Meyer lemon juice and zest, soda water and Meyer lemon simple syrup).

9. Rub a Meyer lemon peel around the rim of a demitasse of espresso.

10. Adapt Claudia Roden's recipe for orange-almond cake (in "The New Book of Middle Eastern Food," the cover of which features a bowl of Meyer lemons) by using two large Meyer lemons instead of oranges (see the recipe at latimesblogs.latimes.com/dailydish).

11. If you don't mind delayed gratification, make classic preserved lemons (different from chef Samuelsson's because the lemons are preserved slowly over weeks instead of quickly blanched and cooked) by filling a Mason jar with quartered Meyer lemons, one-fourth cup of kosher salt and enough lemon juice to cover, and letting them sit in your refrigerator for three weeks. Or, for extra flavor, throw some spices into the jar too: a bay leaf, a cinnamon stick, some black peppercorns, a dried Thai chile, a cardamom pod.

12. Grate Meyer lemon peel into a bowlful of Chantilly cream.

13. Arrange thin slices of Meyer lemons on a pizza crust topped with goat cheese, rosemary and Picholine olives.

14. Make Meyer lemon curd.

15. Try your hand at individual Meyer lemon frozen souffles.

16. Infuse your favorite olive oil with Meyer lemon peel: Warm a cup of olive oil and the peel from 2 lemons over very low heat for 15 minutes, then allow to cool for half an hour. Strain and pour into an antique stoppered bottle.

17. For a Meyer lemon confit, cook slices of lemons in olive oil over very low heat for an hour; coarsely chop, and add to a salad of market greens, goat cheese and candied walnuts.

18. Make a Meyer lemon gremolata with finely minced parsley, garlic and lemon zest, then add to a pot of osso bucco.

19. Roast quartered slices of Meyer lemon with olive oil, rosemary and whole shallots; serve simply, with slices of grilled bread.

20. Infuse 70% Scharffen Berger chocolate, cream and water with Meyer lemon peel for a rich chocolate soup with a citrus note.

21. Make Meyer lemon chiffon cupcakes.

22. Enjoy it in macaroon form by buying a couple of cookies at Boule Atelier in Los Angeles.

23. The next time you roast a duck, place slices of Meyer lemon in the cavity.

24. Make Meyer lemon hollandaise sauce.

25. Serve a grilled fish or fish tacos with an accompanying bowlful of Suzanne Goin's Meyer lemon salsa (from "Sunday Suppers at Lucques"; see the recipe at latimesblogs.latimes.com/dailydish).

26. Squeeze some into your child's hair after washing it, or before a day at the beach.

27. Make Meyer lemon gelee.

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