by Dianne Boate
If you are blessed with lemon trees, there are so many opportunities to use them as gifts (a small basket of lemons tied with a yellow ribbon) or for décor (a bowl of lemons on a table makes a wonderful statement), and there are hundreds of recipes just crying out for lemon zest, lemon juice, and sometimes the whole lemon! While many ingredients claim to be the star of the show, it is the lovely lemon in supporting roles that often pulls the elements together.
Too many lemons? Too little time? There are some quick ways to take care of that while you consider what you really want to make.
The first and easiest is to freeze the whole lemon. Place on trays and freeze, then secure in a Ziplock bag. When the lemon thaws, it is very juicy, so if you need the zest, it is easier to do that before it defrosts. Making lemon juice beforehand saves future recipe-making time. Be sure to strain the juice before pouring into a container. Ice cube trays are generally used to freeze juice, and cupcake tins are great, too. The ice cube unit is 2 tablespoons; the cupcake tin is 1/3 cup—nice to know when using for written recipes requiring certain amounts.
Next, some conceptual ideas about using lemons in your everyday food and drink– it is not always necessary to measure out every single drop in your cooking endeavors!
Crepes, pancakes and waffles: After a brushing of melted butter, powdered sugar and lemon juice is a very tasty alternative.
Salad dressings: Substitute lemon juice for part of the vinegar.
Cooked vegetables, especially greens, carrots, parsnips: A dash of lemon juice with a pat of butter makes them zing.
Potatoes or sweet potatoes: Mashed, baked, fried, and roasted all benefit from adding lemon juice and zest with butter (or olive oil).
Cocktails: Use a good slice of lemon in your martini instead of a salt-ridden olive. You may have a good mix for bloody mary or margarita, but fresh lemon takes it up a notch.
Roasting whole chicken: Quartered onions and lemons (and fresh herbs of your choice) stuffed in the cavity will add delicious flavor to the meat; or, with your fingers, loosen the skin around the breast and place lemon slices between the meat and the skin.
Apple pie and apple-based desserts: Along with lemon juice usually in the recipe, add ½- 1 teaspoon vanilla. Lemon juice and vanilla love each other. You’ll see.
Poaching fish, shrimp, chicken: Lemon slices, white wine, bay leaf, and peppercorns in poaching water creates such flavor! This is a scaled-down conceptual version of Court Bouillon.
Here is a delicious recipe for a tea that is my favorite, printed several years ago in the San Francisco Chronicle:
Iced Lemon Ginger Tea
- 4-inch piece fresh ginger
- 6 cups water
- ½ cup honey
- ½ cup sugar
- Zest of 2 lemons
- 1 cup fresh lemon juice
- Lemon slices, for garnish
Peel ginger and cut crosswise into thin slices. Combine ginger, water, honey, sugar and zest in medium saucepan; boil until sugar dissolves. Remove pan from heat and steep tea, covered, for 45 minutes. Uncover tea and cool completely.
Remove ginger and lemon zest with a slotted spoon and discard. Pour tea into a pitcher and add lemon juice. Chill tea, covered, until cold, for up to 2 days. You could make ahead and freeze, too.
Note: I made this for a special Stern Grove Concert picnic. One friend stated this recipe contained 2 things she absolutely didn’t like. She had at least 3 helpings.
Dianne Boate, a former staff member of the original Dating Game television show, and later, The Renaissance Pleasure Faire, is The Hat Lady, maker of custom millinery, and The Cake Lady, a special events baker for 30 years in the Bay Area. Between cake assignments, she has had several one-woman photography shows, and participated as a botanical illustrator in group shows benefiting the Conservatory of Flowers, National AIDS Memorial Grove, Marin Cancer Institute, and University of California Alumni Association. Her website can be found at www.boatecollection.com.