When I think of lemons, this folk tune often sings in my head, “Lemon tree very pretty, and the lemon flower is sweet, but the fruit of the poor lemon is impossible to eat.”* The author, of this song, Jose Carlos Burle, must never have tasted a Meyer lemon or he wouldn’t have written this song!
Lemons are so happy. Their cheery yellow color radiate love, a freshness and an eagerness to be utilized to the fullest. This means the zest AND the fruit. I cannot bear to juice a lemon without first removing its fragrant and flowery rind or zest. For me, this is the flavor, and, hence from which all delicious tartness is born. The Meyer lemon, less acid, more mandarin-scented and thinner-skinned, than its brighter yellow-colored cousins, makes it the perfect flavor for desserts. Its mellow tang shines in vinaigrettes and desserts.
Lemons are as dear to me as chocolate. Their flavor absolutely makes a bold and intense statement. So pucker up!
Here are a few of my favorite ways to celebrate lemon season.
I love the simplicity of this vinaigrette. The lemon gracefully enhances the lettuce leaves. Feel free to embellish it with capers, fresh herbs or olives. I tossed it with warm vegetable ravioli (butternut squash would be good) and was delighted with the taste. Also I can envision this dressing a niçoise salad, or any tuna salad. Feel free to adjust seasonings, amount of lemon juice or oil.
½ tsp. Dijon mustard
Juice of ½ Meyer lemon or about ¼ cup
Zest of ½ – 1 lemon
Pinch Fleur del Sel (salt)
¼ cup safflower oil
Whisk the lemon juice and zest into the Dijon mustard. Slowly add the oil, whisking constantly until the vinaigrette fuses together. Add salt to taste. Adjust the amount of oil if it is too tangy for your taste.
Lemon Herb Butter
4 Tbls. Unsalted butter
1 Tbls. Fresh Meyer lemon juice
1 tsp. Meyer lemon zest
1/8 tsp. salt
2 Tbls. finely chopped parsley, basil, dill, mint, etc.
1 tsp. finely chopped shallot or garlic
Combine all ingredients. It is easiest accomplished with a food processor.
Spoon butter onto a piece of plastic wrap or waxed paper. Shape the butter into a log and roll it up in the wrap. Freeze until firm. To use, slice off discs and use as added flavor on top of chicken or fish, vegetables, pasta or rice.
I experimented with a few ways to “candy” lemon peel. I must say, it is not as easy as it sounds! My favorite way to create the peel I used for the tarts was to use very thin yellow-only julienne skins, simmered in a sugar syrup, then dipped in sugar. If you would like the recipe, I recommend the one from Epicurious at the bottom of this blog.
Sweet Pastry Crust
1 ¼ Cups all-purpose flour
½ tsp. salt
2 Tlbs. Powered sugar
10 Tbls. Unsalted butter (1 ¼ sticks)- I prefer Kerry Gold Irish butter
3-4 Tbls. cold water
1 egg yolk
In a food processor combine the flour, salt, and powdered sugar. Pulse until blended.
Add the butter. Pulse again just until butter and flour form small peas.
Mix cold water and egg yolk. Add to mixture. If you live in a dry climate or if the weather is very warm, you will probably need the extra 4th tablespoon of water.
Pulse just until combined.
Form into a ball. Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate at least an hour to rest the dough.
Roll dough to 1/4” thickness. Depending upon the size of tart mold you are using cut out rounds of dough and place in molds. Refrigerate or freeze.
Lemon Filling: (caution! This is an adapted recipe from a French version so don’t be intimidated by the gram measures)
210 grams or 1 ¾ cups of powdered sugar
2 lemons juice and zest
3/8 cup clarified butter
Mix together powdered sugar and lemon juice. Whisk in eggs. Stir in cooled clarified butter.
Cook over low to medium heat for about 20 minutes or until lemon coats the back of a spoon.
Pour into a bowl and cover with plastic wrap. Refrigerate.
To make the tarts:
Carefully fill the cold tart shells about ¾ full with the lemon filling.
Bake in a 375 degree oven for about 15-20 minutes or until the shells brown and the filling is bubbly.
Let cool. Filling will “settle” meaning it ends up sinking a bit in the shell. Don’t worry. It will still taste fabulous. Either top with a candied lemon slice or pipe a bit of lemon mousse on top. For the mousse, I just add a little of the lemon crème to whipped cream and fold gently. Pipe mousse on top of the tart and garnish with slivered candied lemon peel, candied violets or mint leaves.
I love these tarts for a refreshing springtime dessert or any season for that matter.
They are a delightful treat for baby or bridal showers or for an afternoon tea party.
100 things to do with a Meyer Lemon from the LA Times: Hhttp://www.latimes.com/features/la-fo-meyerlemons16jan16,0,5003872.storyere are a few more sites for ideas with Meyer (or any variety of) lemons:
My favorite recipe for candied lemons: http://www.epicurious.com/recipes/food/views/Candied-Lemon-Peels-232352
A good story on Meyer Lemons from NPR:http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=100778147
How to make clarified butter from Joy the Baker: http://www.joyofbaking.com/ClarifiedButter.html
Avec l’amour de ma maison à la vôtre avec l’amour, le bonheur et la bonne santé (With love from my house to yours with love, happiness and good health)
Merci mille fois! (Thanks a million!)
*The song compares love to a lemon tree. “Lemon Tree” is a folk song written by Will Holt in the 1960s. The tune is based on the Brazilian folk song Meu limão, meu limoeiro, arranged by José Carlos Burle in 1937 and made popular by Brazilian singer Wilson Simonal.