If you have not had the pleasure of smelling or tasting a Meyer lemon, brace yourself for olfactory overload. With an almost perfume-like sweetness and floral soul, Meyer lemons come from warm, sunny places and will brighten your day immeasurably. It was nothing short of a miracle to find them on the shelves of Superstore this week, as I was led to believe, by Florida grocers, that Meyer lemons are not exported out of their southern homes. But, now they are! And you are the lucky shopper who can infuse your salads, marinades, teas, pies, pastas, cookies and grilled fish with its intoxicating essence. They are thin skinned and softer than your run-of-the-mill lemon, and with much more juice. I grabbed a bag and am already planning to restock my stash, having made some basil pesto enlivened with its juice. All my inner resources are at play conjuring up ways to incorporate Meyer lemons into my life. Lemon squares, certainly, and cheesecake topped with a tart lemon curd. Lemon juice will season my rice pilafs and quinoa creations. Salad dressings with nothing more than the lemon juice, a fruity olive oil, cracked black pepper and some sea salt. Squirted on grilled wild halibut. Zested into my Tuscan braised chicken and artichokes. Lemon meringue pie is a must. Even a Shaker pie, which never really appealed to me before, is on my list, if only for the pleasure of slivers of the whole succulent fruit tucked into a flaky pie shell. Sometimes for fun I just take a Meyer lemon out of the fridge and smell it. That's how much I love them.
Simply put, use a Meyer lemon much as you would use an ordinary lemon. But, try to feature its unique personality in as pure a state as possibile, letting it shine through without too much distraction. So, leave the garlic out of your lemon vinaigrette. Don't overdo the parmesan cheese that you rain over your fusili with lemon cream sauce. When life gives you Meyer lemons, make lemonade! Greek avoglemono sauce would be a fine idea right now. Make a ceviche with sweet scallops or fish filets and Meyer lemon juice. Roast a chicken doused with olive oil and lemon juice and zest, tossing the squeezed carcass of the Meyer lemon into the cavity of the chicken during roasting. Finish off your grilled salmon steaks with a cascade of the sweet juice and nothing more. Serve slivers of Meyer lemon in a tall glass of cold Perrier water. A rare Tuscan steak would turn heads with some of this juice as a fresh flourish. How about some lemon shortbread, the butter serving as a conveyer belt for a Meyer lemon experience? Your shoe would taste good marinated in Meyer lemon juice.
To showcase the insane lemon-ness of Meyer lemons, take the freshest of firm fish filets and douse them with lemon juice. The fish will "cook" in the lemon juice because of its acidity, a perfect plan when you have stellar lemons on hand. Jamie Oliver, a British chef with an appreciation for simplicty and freshness, agrees:
Peruvian Ceviche from Jamie Oliver's Jamie's America
14 ounces sushi grade firm fish, VERY fresh, pinboned, skinned and fileted; 1 red or yellow pepper, seeded and finely chopped; 2 green onions, trimmed and finely chopped; juice of 2 Meyer lemons or 3 regular lemons; 3/4 tsp. sea salt; 1-2 fresh red chiles, seeded and finely chopped; 8 sprigs fresh mint, leaved picked off of stems; 8 sprigs fresh cilantro, leaves picked; large handful of watercress, baby arugula, alfalfa or micro greens; extra virgin olive oil; freshly ground black pepper.
Cut your fish fillets into 1/2-inch cubes. Put these into a bowl with your chopped bell peppers and green onions, then cover and place in the fridge until you need them. in a separate bowl or screw top jar, mix together lemon juice, salt and chiles. Cover and cool in the fridge. Wash and dry your herbs and cress and keep them in the fridge too.
The ceviche takes only a few minutes to "cook", that is to say to let the lemon juice work its wonders and permeate the flesh of the fish. Pour the lemon mixture over the fish mixture and immediately mix it up. Leave to sit for a few minutes while you lay out the plates. Throw most of your herb mixture into the bowl with the fish and toss together. Divide the ceviche between 4 plates (or onto a bigger platter) and include a little of the dressing (throw out what remains). Sprinkle the remaining greens over the top of the fish. Drizzle some extra good extra virgin olive oil from a height, anointing the fish with a golden glisten and grind some fresh black pepper over it all. Enjoy.
A regular lemon has plenty of citrusy charm, but a Meyer lemon is exponentially more magical, with perfume, sunshine and freshness in one handy, yellow package. Take your nose and tongue to places they have never been and use these books as inspiration: