pucker up

photo courtesy of missmae

One of my very favorite things to cook with is lemon. Lemons can liven up dishes with both flavor and color. Lemons can be used to clean and freshen your home, they can be used to flavor teas and special drinks, or as a viniagrette, in a main dish and in all kinds of desserts. If you can get your hands on Meyer lemons, you may want to give them a try, they have an orangey-lemony flavor that's hard to beat. If you can't get your hands on Meyers, you can use lemons found in your local market.
When choosing lemons, look for lemons that feel heavier than they look, if you can find smaller ripe lemons, they'll be juicier. Store lemons at room temp. Squeeze fresh lemon juice into ice cube trays- and freeze for a quick fresh lemon juice. Before cutting into a lemon or any citrus, roll fruit on the counter pressing lightly, this will release the juices from their little juice sacs. The bright yellow part of the peel can be zested and used in recipes, you can also freeze the zest. Make sure to zest your fruit before you cut it.

photo courtesy of cruccone

Now hows about some lemon recipes from some of my favorite cooks:

Cool Lavender Lemonade
7 cups water
1 cup sugar
1 1/2 cup lemon juice from concentrate-thawed
3 fresh lavender sprigs
bring water to boil over med high heat. stir in sugar and cook, stirring constantly for 1-2minutes, until sugar dissolves; remove from heat. Stir in lemon juice and lavender; let stand at least 2 hours
pour lemonade mixture through a wire mesh strainer into a large pitcher, discarding herbs. serve over ice with a slice of fresh lemon
Southern Living Cookbook

Lemon Curd is a wonderful addition to any kitchen, you can spread in on toast, use it in a cake or dessert, and it's great with fresh fruit. Lemon Curd is a wonderful gift when packaged in a pretty jar. If you like sweet and tart, you'll love lemon curd.

Lemon Curd
3 lemons
1 1/2 cups sugar
1/4 pound unsalted butter, room temperature
4 extra-large eggs
1/2 cup lemon juice (3 to 4 lemons)
1/8 teaspoon kosher salt
Using a carrot peeler, remove the zest of 3 lemons, being careful to avoid the white pith. Put the zest in a food processor fitted with the steel blade. Add the sugar and pulse until the zest is very finely minced into the sugar.

Cream the butter and beat in the sugar and lemon mixture. Add the eggs, 1 at a time, and then add the lemon juice and salt. Mix until combined.

Pour the mixture into a 2 quart saucepan and cook over low heat until thickened (about 10 minutes), stirring constantly. The lemon curd will thicken at about 170 degrees F, or just below simmer. Remove from the heat and cool or refrigerate.
Ina Garten

Chicken Piccata has to be one of my favorite dishes. When you take a bite, there are so many flavors that go coursing through your mouth, it just makes you happy. I think the lemons and capers make this dish sing. Wow, could I be any more emotional about food??:)

Chicken Piccata
2 skinless and boneless chicken breasts, butterflied and then cut in half
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
All-purpose flour, for dredging
6 tablespoons unsalted butter
5 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1/3 cup fresh lemon juice
1/2 cup chicken stock
1/4 cup brined capers, rinsed
1/3 cup fresh parsley, chopped
Season chicken with salt and pepper. Dredge chicken in flour and shake off excess.

In a large skillet over medium high heat, melt 2 tablespoons of butter with 3 tablespoons olive oil. When butter and oil start to sizzle, add 2 pieces of chicken and cook for 3 minutes. When chicken is browned, flip and cook other side for 3 minutes. Remove and transfer to plate. Melt 2 more tablespoons butter and add another 2 tablespoons olive oil. When butter and oil start to sizzle, add the other 2 pieces of chicken and brown both sides in same manner. Remove pan from heat and add chicken to the plate.

Into the pan add the lemon juice, stock and capers. Return to stove and bring to boil, scraping up brown bits from the pan for extra flavor. Check for seasoning. Return all the chicken to the pan and simmer for 5 minutes. Remove chicken to platter. Add remaining 2 tablespoons butter to sauce and whisk vigorously. Pour sauce over chicken and garnish with parsley.
Giada De Laurentiis

Here's a great dessert for your next 4th of July bash- who doesn't love lemon squares- ok, Mr. Homemaker doesn't, but I think thats because his tastebuds are broken.

Lemony Lemon Squares
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup confectioners' sugar
6 ounces cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch pieces (1 1/2 sticks or 12 tablespoons)
6 large eggs
3 cups granulated sugar
1 cup and 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
3 tablespoons confectioners' sugar, approximately
Crust: Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Combine flour and confectioner's sugar in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, and beat on low speed until mixed. Add butter and continue to mix until the butter is the size of small peas, about 30 seconds. The mixture will be very dry. Gently press the mixture evenly onto the bottom of a 9-by-13-inch baking pan.
Bake until golden brown, 20 to 25 minutes. Let cool to room temperature. Reduce the oven temperature to 300 degrees.
Filling: In a large bowl, whisk together eggs and granulated sugar until smooth. Stir in lemon juice and then flour. Pour the filling on top of the crust.
Bake until the lemon filling is set, about 40 minutes. Let cool to room temperature and then put in the refrigerator for an hour or keep at room temperature for three hours before cutting. Cut into squares, about 2 1/4 inches. Dust tops with confectioner's sugar.
Emily Luchetti

So pucker up and enjoy some lemons this summer- you'll be pleasantly surprised.

photo courtesy of james bowe

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