My folks live on the sunny side of town, San Francisco’s so called “banana belt”, which is a good thing if you like to garden and a great thing if you happen to have a Meyer lemon tree. We’re often the lucky recipients of their bumper crops and I think we’ve become pretty spoiled by having a steady supply of fruit during lemon season. We’ve been using the juice in salad dressings and recipes, the zest in homemade lemon salt and our favorite French yogurt cake, and the kids like to make small glasses of lemonade once in a while for a special treat. Meyer lemons are especially nice because they are sweeter than a typical lemon and have an absolutely incredible fragrance. They are actually a cross between a lemon and an orange which will give you a sense of the flavor and aroma.
We’ve been playing around with salt around here at Casa Stacie, making our own flavorful seasonings to spice up even the most basic recipes in our repertoire. Since we’ve caught the bug, there always seems to be a collection of special salts in tiny bowls on the kitchen counter and we make sure to keep them in easy reach so we can grab a pinch as we’re cooking, tossing a salad, dressing pasta.
All you need is a little good quality salt of your choice and a bit of imagination. You can easily dry any sorts of leafy herbs within seconds in your microwave and crumble them into salt. We like to use this method to make celery salt with leftover leaves from a head of celery, but you can use pretty much anything to flavor up your salt: from matcha green tea, to sichuan peppercorn, ground dried porcini, fennel and crushed red pepper, or our newest favorite meyer lemon (supplied by my mom’s tree). The heavenly hint of meyer lemon you get when seasoning with this salt adds an extra dimension to a green salad with a tangy dressing, to fish or poultry or really to anything calling out for a little extra zing. How about lemon or lime salt for the rim of your margarita glass? …. that’s what I’m talking about!
The main thing with DIY flavored salts is to make sure your salt mixture is bone dry if you are planning to store it in a jar. If you have concerns about moisture you can dry your custom salt on a cookie sheet at 200 degrees for an hour or even store it in the freezer. We prefer to keep things easy peasy by making tiny batches and leaving our salts open to the air to avoid any storage issues. Once we use up one flavor, we know it’s time to dream up another.
1 Minute Meyer Lemon Salt
- This has to be one of the fastest “cooking” projects around — just zest your lemon with a microplane grater, stir it into some kosher salt and it’s ready to use. It will keep for several weeks on your counter.
- Choose an unwaxed lemon and make sure to scrub it well before zesting.
- If you do not have a microplane grater, remove the outermost layer of peel — yellow only, avoid the white pith — and mince it as finely as you can.
- We like a ratio of about 1 teaspoon of zest (about 1 small lemon) to 2 tablespoons of salt, but you can play around with the proportions to suit your own tastes.
You might also like these pantry projects: Ginger At the Ready, Infused Liquors, “Special Sauce”: 2-Day Tomato Conserva
Gratuitous Blood Orange Picture
Tis the season for wonderful citrus. My whole family has been, as my friend Shani would put it, on a serious Clementine bender. We just can’t seem to get enough of those sweet little orange bundles of yum. I’ve been falling deeper and deeper into my obsession for pink grapefuit, and just yesterday I snagged a hoard of gorgeous, jewel-like blood oranges at my favorite produce store. Then there are the bags (bags!) of meyer lemons that my mom has been bringing by from her prolific front yard harvest (along with the occasional lemon meringue pie — keep ’em coming, mom!). I think my whole family is in heaven right now.
The sight of a pile of juicy meyer lemons in my refrigerator jogged my memory about a recipe that I haven’t made since my husband and I were dating. “Chicken with Roasted Lemon & Rosemary Sauce” from Michael Chiarello’s Tra Vigne Cookbook: Seasons in the California Wine Country. I can vividly recall the night we cooked this in his minimally equipped, bachelor kitchen by the light of a fluorescent bulb. I believe we also made our own pasta that night, and drank copious amounts of wine — we were probably listening to Green Day. Isn’t it amazing how a certain recipe or taste can bring you right back to such a specific time and place? Roasted meyer lemons = hubby’s bachelor apartment; steamed fish and wintermelon soup = my childhood kitchen table, Hungarian goulash = my first collage apartment.
So with fond memories of our breezy single days, we uncorked some wine and enjoyed this easy, delicious dish all over again — this time around our family table. I’m not quite sure why we waited so long to reprise this one, but I’m glad we did.
Chicken with Roasted Meyer Lemon, Rosemary and Garlic
(adapted from “The Tra Vigne Cookbook: Seasons in the California Wine Country“, by Michael Chiarello)
- 2 Bone-In, Skin-On Split Chicken Breasts
- 3 Meyer Lemons (or substitute regular lemons as in the original recipe), cut in half, drizzled in olive oil, seasoned with salt and pepper, and broiled for 5-7 minutes until tops are very lightly charred
- 3 Cloves of Garlic, Minced
- 1 Sprig of Fresh Rosemary, Leaves Finely Minced
- 2 Cups Chicken Broth
- Several Sprigs of Parsley, Leaves Finely Minced
- ** 10-12 Small New Potatoes, Steamed Until Tender and Sliced in Half ** (optional)
- Heat oven to 450 degrees. Put the broth in a pan on a back burner to let it reduce while you start cooking everything else.
- Season chicken with salt an pepper. Heat an oven-safe skillet on the stove and add 1 Tbl of olive oil. Sear chicken in the hot skillet until golden brown on all sides. [At this point, the original recipe calls for you to remove the chicken, crisp the steamed potatoes in the pan, then return the chicken skin side up back to the pan on top of the potatoes].
- Baste the chicken with a little of the pan juices and turn the pieces are skin side up. Then move the skillet into the oven until chicken is cooked through. A thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the chicken should reach 165 degrees. Remove chicken to a platter and cover it loosely with foil to keep it warm while you finish the sauce. (Keep a pot holder over the skillet handle so you don’t accidentally grab it while it is still hot. I speak from experience here!)
- Pour off most of the fat from the pan then add the garlic and minced rosemary and saute until the garlic is lightly golden, about 2-3 minutes. Be sure to scrape up any brown bits from the bottom of the pan and if they or the garlic start to get too dark, quickly add some broth and stir.
- Squeeze the roasted, cooled lemons into the pan through a fine mesh sieve. Add 3/4 cup of the warm, reduced broth (you should have some left over) and let the sauce simmer for several minutes to let it thicken to a saucy consistency. If you remember, add in the juices that have collected on the platter with the chicken as well. Taste and season with salt and pepper. You can add additional chicken broth to balance the flavor if needed (or a little hot water).
- When the sauce is to your liking, drizzle it over the chicken and sprinkle with minced parsley.
You might also like these citrus-y posts: Pink Grapefruit Granita; Sweet Lemon Thyme Crisps; Bar Jules Lamb with Preserved Lemons; Pickling Project: Preserved Lemons; Keeping Lemons Fresh and Other Tasty Tidbits