Feb 2011: by Margaret Hemley, Cooking Teacher at Tante Marie's It is bursting with the soft, pale yellow, sweet lemons. Their juice and zest find their way into pudding, tagine, lentil soup, beurre blanc and vinaigrettes. I always seem to have a half a Meyer lemon sitting on the counter waiting to be squeezed onto a resting hangar steak or in a glass of bubbly water. It's vibrant, sweet-tart juice and zest brighten many a dish in my winter kitchen.
Don’t confuse the Meyer lemons with the Lisbon or Eureka, the tough lemons most commonly seen in the markets. Meyers are thin-skinned and slightly fragile so they don’t ship well. The flavor is a cross between a lemon and mandarin orange – the less acidic, juicier, sweeter fruit of the lemon kingdom. It made its way to America from China with 2,500 other plants, including soybeans, in the hands of Frank Meyer, a daring plant explorer of the early 1900s. Thank you, Frank!
Mary was coming for lunch and I decided to use up some of the many fruits on my Meyer Lemon tree. It was 75 degrees in Marin, a fine February day! (No, I did not call my snowbound parents in Baltimore and gloat). My girls began their harvest in t-shirts, shorts and bare feet. They grabbed the juicer, a knife and started juicing right in the courtyard. I have no idea where they found the wooden plank they turned into a cutting board. When Mary arrived, she discovered some ragtag girls surrounded by bright yellow lemon halves and sweet-tart lemon juice.
Luckily, they didn’t pick all the fruit. I needed some zest. Meyer Lemon zest, like the juice, is more mild than that of the Eureka Lemon – it is floral and vibrant and adds a subtle zesty wink to salsas and curds and vinaigrettes. I decided to make a favorite, Seared Cod with Meyer Lemon Salsa and Cream from SUNDAY SUPPERS AT LUCQUES, by Suzanne Goin. Alongside, some potato wedges roasted in Meyer Lemon Vinaigrette and chicken stock and sauteed spinach. We enjoyed lemonade, lemon curd, candied lemons and lemon caramel. I served the caramel on vanilla ice cream with meringue-lemon curd sandwich cookies. How fun it was to cook for Mary, my teacher, as she observed from a stool and sampled my sauces!
After this weekend, my fruit basket is empty, but all I need to do is step outside and pluck a few more Meyers that seem to have ripened overnight. I think I’ll make a grilled pork tenderloin with Meyer Lemon Salsa Verde for dinner tonight. You should, too!