It’s a bum rap.
Calling a faulty piece of machinery a lemon—it’s wrong and unfair. It’s just blatant anti-lemon propaganda.
Lemons are one of the tastiest and most versatile items in any kitchen.
The other day I was waxing rhapsodic about lemons, and said, “Lemons make everything better.”
And Petey said, “Not if you don’t like ‘em.”
Well first off, I don’t think that person exists. But, for the sake of argument let’s say that this freak of nature is out there somewhere, leading a lonely, lemon-hating life.
Unbeknownst to him, he probably ingests them all the time.
Many fruit juices add lemon to keep them from becoming cloyingly sweet. Lots of salad dressings contain a spritz or two. And all kinds of dishes, especially long cooked ones, are finished by squeezing a bit of lemon juice into them. Just enough to perk up the flavors, but not enough to taste.
Recently I cobbled together a recipe for sautéed spinach. Except for creamed spinach, I’ve never liked it cooked, because it seems bitter and slimy. But I read about a method that’s easier, and less messy. I had a surfeit of spinach in the fridge, so I decided to experiment. Besides, The Kid loves sautéed spinach, and I get a kick out of giving my culinary schooled child a little schooling from me.
To my surprised delight, wilting the spinach by microwave gets rid of both bitterness and sliminess. I loved it.
32 ounces fresh baby spinach (2 large boxes)
*1 tablespoon garlic oil
1 large shallot or 1/2 red onion, diced
¼ teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg
Juice of ½ lemon
Kosher salt to taste
Cracked black pepper to taste
*To make garlic oil, peel 2 cloves garlic and bruise by giving them a whack with a spoon. Place into skillet with olive oil. Warm until fragrant, then remove cloves with slotted spoon and discard.
Directions for spinach: Place raw spinach into very large bowl, pressing down to get it all in. Cover with damp paper towel. Microwave for 2 minutes. Toss and put back into microwave. Cook in 2 minute increments until completely wilted.
Put into colander and let it cool enough to handle.
Once cool, squeeze with your hands to get out as much water (and the bitterness it contains) as possible. Put it on a cutting board and roughly chop. Return to colander and squeeze it again to get out all the liquid you can. Let rest in colander until ready to cook—or refrigerate and hold for up to 6 hours.
Heat skillet, add garlic oil. Add shallots, season, and cook until translucent. Stir in spinach, and nutmeg. Season. Sautee until it’s hot and it seems almost dry.
To preserve color of the spinach, take pan off heat then stir in lemon juice. Check for seasoning, and serve. Makes 4-5 servings.
Even though there’s lemon in the spinach, it only brightens the flavor. So, there you go, mythical lemon hater.
But if you like lemon, there’s all kind of places to put it for a kick of citrus.
Add it to scrambled eggs—but only after cooking; adding it to raw will curdle them, which is a pretty unappetizing sight at breakfast. Give soup a hit; I recently added lemon juice to both Panera’s cream of chicken, and a bowl of egg drop soup. Turned out awesome. But lemon loves salt, so taste and re-season if needed.
Not just savory, lemon’s heavenly in sweets.
For a quick delicious dessert that will impress and delight your diners, make a granita.
A granita is a frozen non-dairy dessert that when placed in a goblet, looks like a million bucks.
Just make a pitcher of lemonade and pour it into a baking dish and freeze (add a splash of grenadine for pink lemonade). Every 15 minutes, take it out and scrape with a fork. Keep doing this until it’s completely frozen and looks like snow. Scoop into wine glass, and garnish with a sprig of mint or a twisted strip of lemon peel.
I hope I’ve convinced you to appreciate this sunny, daffodil-colored fruit so much that you, like me, are beseeching life to give you some lemons.
Thanks for your time.