Monday, March 9, 2009

When Life Gives You Lemons, Go Buck Wild

I recently returned from a quick trip to Sweet Home California, where in every other backyard in the Los Angeles area there grows at least one citrus tree. I am not exaggerating. Say what you will (I know I do) about the sprawl, the reliance on the automobile as a mode of everyday transportation, and those Santa Ana winds, it is the promised land when it comes to growing your own fruits and vegetables. While other parts of the country are scraping through the last of the root vegetables stored in the cellar, Californians are enjoying avocado and citrus season. I left sunny southern California on a 75-degree Sunday afternoon and returned to snowy, sub-freezing New York City with a duffel bag full of lemons from my parents' tree (and Meyer lemons from a friend's tree, and tangerines and kumquats from a local farmers' market). Here are some of the more interesting things I've done (and will do) with these "tiny suns infused with sour."

Limoncello-Like Lemon Liqueur
A wonderful use of 160-proof grain alcohol I had lying around in the freezer (I swear there is a logical explanation behind this) and all those pretty lemon peels. Steep strips of zest (use a vegetable peeler or paring knife, and avoid any white pith) in grain alcohol in a mason jar, using two medium lemons for each cup of booze. Store at room temperature for a week or two, then add simple syrup and store in the freezer. Tips and more detailed guides can be found here and here.

lemon-ricotta pancakes
Lemon-Ricotta Pancakes with Lemon Curd and Raspberry Jam
There are many, many recipes for each of these components online. Shape them like lemons for extra cute/corny appeal.

lemon cookies
Lemon and Black Pepper Cookies
Find your favorite recipe for basic sugar cookies, and add lemon zest and black pepper. The flavors are pretty subtle, so I drizzled an icing made from powdered sugar and lemon juice on mine.

lemon vinaigrette
Lemon-Thyme Vinaigrette
Combine 1 part lemon juice with 2 parts extra-virgin olive oil (or more if you want it to be less tangy), fresh thyme, salt, and black pepper. Great on roasted potatoes, pasta salad, or as a marinade for chicken or seafood.

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