Saturday, February 7, 2009

Lemon Extravaganza

Meyer lemons were on sale at Whole Foods this week, so I bought a pound or so. Then, I found so many recipes I wanted to make that I went back and bought another pound, not on sale. (At the $3/lb regular price, they're a cheap treat--though not as cheap as they are for my friend Derick, a new California transplant, who says he has hundreds ripening in his yard.)

It's not just that I like lemons (and Meyer lemons), but when I make lemony things, I get to use two of my favorite kitchen implements--the Microplane zester and my lovely lemon juicer. I don't have too much to say about the zester beyond that it does its job perfectly, but I do have a story about the lemon juicer.

Many years ago, during my first year in grad school, I shared a house with a fellow named Lawrence. We were mostly friends and housemates but occasionally more, and that made things a tad confusing. Although when we'd first met him at the summer camp we all worked at, my friend Diana and I had called him "Lawrence the soft-spoken young man," by the time he moved out, after only 6 months of cohabitation, I called him "Lawrence the Fuckhead." In fact, even though I haven't seen him since the early 90s, I still call him, reflexively and out of habit, "Lawrence the Fuckhead."

He was not all bad, it must be said. He taught me to drive a stick shift, in his truck. And he introduced me to the lemon juicer of my dreams. He came home with it one day, having found it at a tag sale for a dollar. I fell in love, the way you can with kitchen implements. It was so well designed--the way the handles gave you enough leverage to really get all the juice out and then the cleverness of being able to pick the juicer up by those same handles and pour the juice out the little spout on the side. The grate that kept the pits out of the juice but that also could be removed for easy washing. I just loved it and juiced at every opportunity. When we divided up the kitchen things when he left, I tried very hard to think of a reason why I should have the lemon juicer. Since he was the one who had found and bought it, there wasn't one. (I didn't think "Because you're a fuckhead and I'm not?" would work that well.) I thought about hiding it but wasn't sure I could get away with it, and things were acrimonious enough as it was, without accusations of pilfered kitchen implements. So, sadly, I bade farewell to the lemon juicer.

Astonishingly, I didn't see another lemon juicer like it for almost 15 years. (Googling wasn't an option for much of that time, and even now, when I google, I can't find the exact one, though a friend found one in a similar style at a fancy kitchen store. (I can't find that one online either, unfortunately.)) Then one day, Emily and I were at a tag sale, and while she was pondering an upholstered chair (bought for $25 and now reupholstered and in her dining room), I wandered over to a table full of miscellaneous things. And there, on the table, was my lemon juicer. I was so excited that I nearly hyperventilated. I started waving it around, and the woman whose tag sale it was asked if I knew what it was. "Of course I know what it is," I told her. "I've been looking for one for years." She sold it to me for a dollar, and I went home happy. I do not love that it's aluminum, but beyond that, it's just about my favorite thing in my kitchen. I probably juice many more lemons than I would otherwise, just for the pleasure of using it.

So, lots of lemon juicing and zesting went on this afternoon. Of all the Meyer lemon recipes I found, I narrowed it down to two. The first was this Meyer lemon curd from Epicurious, kindly pointed out by my friend Catherine, which was really quick and easy to make. The last time I made lemon curd, it seemed to take ages to thicken, but this one was done after about 10 minutes on the stove and was totally delicious.

I think Alex would have been happy if I'd just presented him with the bowl of it and a spoon, but I also made the lemon yogurt cake that I found on Smitten Kitchen that's originally from Ina Garten. It's totally a keeper. Deb at Smitten Kitchen offers all kinds of variations, many of which I would like to try. For this first time, I followed Deb's recipe almost exactly, except that I cut the oil down to 1/3 cup (and will cut it further to 1/4 cup next time I make it) and used lowfat yogurt. (Although I always hate having to transition back to American yogurt after eating Indian yogurt, which is more delicious all around, yogurt from Sidehill Farm makes it a little bit easier. It turns out that the Sidehill farmers were both in my college class, which I didn't know at the time, and now I am very grateful that they decided to focus their skills on farming and yogurt making because they are very good at it.) I also didn't worry about the extra-large eggs and just used the large eggs I had in the fridge.

My cake did sink a bit after I took it out of the oven, and I baked it for nearly an hour rather than the 50 minutes she suggested, but it's moist and lemony, with a lovely crumb. And even though it would have been tasty on its own, we slathered it with lemon curd and ate it that way.

And after all that, I still have some Meyer lemons left, so there is more juicing and zesting in my immediate future. I'm not complaining.

Lemon-Blueberry Yogurt Loaf
Adapted from Ina Garten by Deb at Smitten Kitchen

1 1/2 cups + 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour (if you’re skipping the fruit, you can also skip the last tablespoon of flour)
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1 cup plain whole-milk yogurt
1 cup plus 1 tablespoon sugar
3 extra-large eggs (
2 teaspoons grated lemon zest (approximately 2 lemons)
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1 1/2 cups blueberries, fresh or frozen, thawed and rinsed (miniature wild blueberries are great for this, and pose the least risk of sinking)
1/3 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Grease an 8 1/2 by 4 1/4 by 2 1/2-inch loaf pan. Line the bottom with parchment paper. Grease and flour the pan.

Sift together 1 1/2 cups flour, baking powder, and salt into 1 bowl. In another bowl, whisk together the yogurt, 1 cup sugar, the eggs, lemon zest, vanilla and oil. Slowly whisk the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients. Mix the blueberries with the remaining tablespoon of flour, and fold them very gently into the batter. Pour the batter into the prepared pan and bake for about 50 (+) minutes, or until a cake tester placed in the center of the loaf comes out clean.

Meanwhile, cook the 1/3 cup lemon juice and remaining 1 tablespoon sugar in a small pan until the sugar dissolves and the mixture is clear. Set aside.

When the cake is done, allow it to cool in the pan for 10 minutes before flipping out onto a cooling rack. Carefully place on a baking rack over a sheet pan. While the cake is still warm, pour the lemon-sugar mixture over the cake and allow it to soak in (a pastry brush works great for this, as does using a toothpick to make tiny holes that draw the syrup in better). Cool.

The cats are hoping to get their certification as lemon inspectors, but they need more practice.


Lisa said...

My ex (also a little bit of a fuckhead, although we've mostly made our peace) had one of those lemon juicers too! And he got custody of it, damn him. All I got was a lousy kid. (And now the kid's gone and I want a lemon juicer.)

They had Meyer lemons at Fairway but they were $5.99 a pound, and I couldn't bring myself to do it. I'm cheap.

heddy said...

My ex also contributed the same kind of fabulous vintage lemon squeezer into our home.

I was actually stupid enough to return it to him years after he left it behind.

I suppose women should be wary of men bearing vintage fruit juicers.

Sue Dickman said...

"Women should be wary of men bearing vintage fruit juicers."

This is a motto to live by if there ever was one! I will continue to keep my eye out for the juicers at tag sales and any additional one I find, I'll be happy to donate to someone who lost hers to a fuckhead ex (or even an ex who wasn't a fuckhead). I found mine probably 5 years ago, though, and have visited many tag sales since and have never seen another one.