I’ve decided to do a series of posts featuring lemon-based recipes. These recipes are my keepers, the tried and true of the many tried and so-so. Some have been culled from my mom’s recipes which were often nothing more than a list of ingredients jotted on a slip of paper and stuffed in her overflowing recipe binder, with no detail as to method or cooking temperature.
Some came from my grandma’s depression-era notebook, bound in green and white wallpaper, featuring recipes like Hatty’s Peach Luscious, Cheese Delight and Mock Oysters which are liberally sprinkled with mysterious measures such as “one 5 cent tin.”
Still others come from our collection of stained and tattered cookbooks, including various from Julia Child, an ancient copy of Fanny Farmer, Cook’s Illustrated, Paula Wolfert, Australia’s Greg & Lucy Malouf and Canada’s own inimitable David Woods.
Here’s the thing. If you cook a dish or bake a dessert at home, with care, using good ingredients, you are creating something pleasurable to share with your friends and family. It will taste infinitely better than anything processed and store bought. It need not be horrendously time consuming. I fervently believe that cooking and baking are not chores but acts of creativity that will bring joy, satisfaction, sensual pleasure and good times to your home, especially when shared. These are worthy goals and very attainable.
It all starts with a good recipe.
That, and a willingness to turn off the Food Channel and actually step into the kitchen.
But why lemons, you ask? Well, I happen to like lemons. Beyond that, there are a number of excellent reasons:
1. Because lemons are available all year round in most supermarkets and you don’t need to rob a bank to afford a half dozen.
2. Because lemons provide a big, bright, tangy BLAST of clean, fresh flavour.
3. Because they complement so many foods.
4. Because lemons are low cal, zero fat and full of vitamin C. Low cal, high flavour: what could be better?
5. Because lemons smell so good.
6. Because a bowl of lemons looks pretty enough to use as a centrepiece on the table. Stylists use lemons all the time.
7. Because lemons are so versatile. They make delicious desserts, of course, and are equally wonderful in salad dressings and main courses. Where would grilled salmon be without a squeeze of lemon? Nowhere!
8. Because traditional Mediterranean cuisines make wonderful use of lemons. We’ve amassed quite a collection of Moroccan, Turkish, Persian, Lebanese cookbooks the past few years, largely unknown cuisines for many home cooks in North America, but extremely healthy. The emphasis is on fresh fruits and vegetables, with heart-smart olive oil also being a central ingredient in many traditional dishes. Who wants same old, same old night after night for dinner? Not me!
9. Because lemons are not just for cooking and decorating, they have great cosmetic uses, too. After cutting a lemon in half and squeezing the juice from it for your favourite recipe, rub the lemon half (the juicy side) over your elbow to soften the dry skin there. In summer, squeeze some lemon juice into your hair and sit out in the sun to add some natural blonde highlights (don’t do this if your hair is already artificially coloured).
10. Because lemons are edible sunshine. They taste like a summer day feels. Lemons are a feel good food.
Besides lemons, the recipes in this upcoming series of posts will all have one thing in common. They are all insanely delicious. So stay tuned and enjoy.