In-season lemons brighten the winter palate.
Lemons are a natural gift in the middle of winter. Just when we need a jolt of brightness and when summer fruit’s sweet tartness is a distant memory, it’s high season for fresh-picked lemons. And although the most commonly sold lemon, the Eureka, grows and produces flowers and fruit throughout the year, the winter season delivers an assortment of lemons that zest up dishes of all types and tastes.
Greek to You
Someone said, “Lemons are to Greek cuisine as tomatoes are to Italian.” Though not native to Greece, lemons have been commonly used in Greek cooking for thousands of years, and it’s hard to think of Greek food without the flavor of lemon—in classic dishes like avgolemono, the lemon-egg soup, or in lemon rice, or simply squeezed over fresh fish or shellfish. “We juice between 40 to 60 pounds of lemon a week,” says Manoli Katsanevas, owner of SLC’s modern Greek bistro that bears his name. “The acid in lemon makes you salivate instinctively, and that makes food more appetizing,” he says. “And Greek food depends on a lot of lamb, and a lot of grilling—the brightness of fresh lemon balances the richness of the lamb and the slight bitterness of the char. Vinegar could do that, but lemon adds a lighter, fresher note.” For Manoli’s version of the Greek staple, lemon rice, he cooks long-grain rice in a mixture of chicken stock and lemon juice. Other tricks? Squeeze a little lemon over roasted or fried chicken and cooked greens.
Why a Meyer?
The extra-fragrant Meyer is a cross between a lemon and an orange or mandarin. It has a sweeter, more delicate flavor with less acid than conventional lemons, and their thinner skins makes them harder to ship. Use them as you would other lemons, but remember, you’ll need less sweetener.
According to the late Michael Field, the best way to extract the maximum amount of juice from a lemon is to boil it in water for 2 or 3 minutes and allow it to cool before squeezing. You can extract more juice from a warm or room-temperature lemon than a cold lemon.
Fresh Squeezed Around Town
Pizzeria Limone, 613 E. 400 South, SLC, 801-953-0200
The signature pizza of this home-grown pizza chain features thin-sliced lemons, red onion slivers, garlic and five cheeses melted on a bubbled crust.
Hell’s Backbone Grill & Farm, No. 20 North Highway 12, Boulder, 435-335-7464. (Closed through mid-March)
Lemony mashed potatoes are luxed up with sour cream, cream and butter, then the richness is balanced with lemon rind and juice.
Sea Salt, 1709 E. 1300 South, 801-349-1480
Capellini alla Siciliana mixes angel hair pasta with garlicky wild shrimp from the Sea of Cortez seasoned with chile, parsley, sun-dried tomato and white wine—bits of preserved lemon add surprise to the dish.
Manoli’s, 402 E. Harvey Milk Blvd (900 South) #2, SLC, 801-532-3760
Every Greek restaurant serves a version of lemon rice. Manoli’s uses Pila long-grain rice cooked in chicken stock and lemon, then enriched with a dollop of creamy, house-made Greek yogurt.
written by: Mary Brown Malouf
photos by: Adam Finkle