Paying Homage to the Meyer Lemon

Meyer LemonAll of us women are deeply Southern; we steel magnolias found each other as we migrated to new lives in Asheville. When one of our member’s tree finally — after 2 years of coddling — bore a crop of 3 lemons, we declared cause for celebration. Gathering around the tree, we raised glasses and christened ourselves as the Meyer Lemon Society.

Meyer lemons have the burst of lemon flavor without the bitter – even the very thin white pith is edible. Thinly slice and toss them with vegetables to roast, such as eggplant, peppers, onions, and zucchini, or sliced fennel and pitted kalamata olives. Squeeze a little juice or sprinkle the zest on roasted asparagus, and use the juice and grated zest in vinaigrette for fresh, almost floral, flavor. You can also arrange slices on a whole chicken or fish fillet as it roasts, and then eat the slices as a condiment. Use them just like regular lemons, only expect the milder citrus tang of a cross between a lemon and a mandarin orange.

Now we friends get together anytime the tree is ready to yield ripe citrus fruit. We pay homage by preparing food with it, and we make as many courses as we have peel and juice for. Recently, a bumper crop yielded enough juice to make a pitcher of Meyer lemon margaritas, a lemon-parsley pesto-bruschetta and a white chocolate crème brûlée (from my book, Small-Batch Baking for Chocolate Lovers).

These recipes serve 2; for more, they are easily doubled.

Meyer Lemon Parsley Bruschetta

  • 1/2 bunch fresh parsley leaves
  • 1/4 cup pitted kalamata olives
  • 3 to 4 tablespoons freshly grated Parmigiano Reggiano
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • Grated zest of 1 Meyer lemon
  • 2 teaspoons Meyer lemon juice
  • Freshly ground pepper
  • 1/3 baguette, cut into thin, diagonal slices
  • Additional olive oil
  • Additional freshly grated Parmigiano Reggiano

Place parsley, olives, cheese, 2 tablespoons olive oil, and Meyer lemon zest and juice in a food processor and pulse until finely chopped.

Heat a thin layer of olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat; toast bread slices in oil, turning to brown on both sides. Remove from skillet; place on a platter, and sprinkle with additional cheese. Serve with parsley mixture. Makes 2 to 3 servings.

Lemon White Chocolate Crème Brulee

From Small-Batch Baking for Chocolate Lovers

  • 1 cup whipping cream
  • 1 tablespoon freshly grated Meyer lemon or regular lemon rind
  • 1 ounce fine-quality white chocolate, chopped
  • 2 1/2 tablespoons beaten egg yolks (2 1/2 large egg yolks)
  • 3 tablespoons sugar
  • 2 teaspoons fresh Meyer or regular lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • Pinch of salt
  • 2 teaspoons sugar

Position oven rack in center of oven and preheat oven to 325 degrees F. Place 2 (5 x 1-inch) crème brulee dishes or 1/2-cup ramekins in a larger baking pan for easier handling, and set aside.

Place cream and lemon rind small, heavy saucepan; bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer 1 minute. Remove from heat. Pour through a wire-mesh sieve into a bowl, discarding lemon rind. Add white chocolate to hot cream; stir until smooth.

Meanwhile, whisk egg yolks and sugar in a medium bowl until blended. Continue to whisk while you gradually pour in hot milk mixture. Whisk in lemon juice, vanilla, and salt.

Strain through a wire mesh sieve into dishes, dividing evenly. Put baking pan in oven and carefully pour enough hot water into baking dish to come halfway up sides of dishes.

Bake until custards are just set but still slightly jiggly, 26 to 30 minutes. Carefully remove ramekins from hot water bath and let cool slightly on a wire rack. Cover and refrigerate until cold, about 6 hours or overnight.

Just before serving, preheat broiler. Sprinkle the tops of the crème brulees with 1 teaspoon sugar each. Place under the broiler until sugar is caramelized, 3 to 4 minutes. Or caramelize sugar with a kitchen torch. Makes 2 servings.

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