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Galley Gourmet: Lemons & Sunshine

by Bridget Charters

Mariners have long employed lemons and citrus to combat scurvy, clean, and improve our cocktails. We mariners have always had a soft spot for citrus. Growing up in the Bay Area, our family had a lemon tree out the back door and a large tangelo tree outside my bedroom window, so anytime I zest a lemon or peel a tangelo, I always think of my lovely childhood garden. Here in the Northwest, an easy way to shake off the chill of winter and start thinking about spring is with a cheerful batch of lemon dishes. Zested, juiced, peeled, sliced, grilled, candied, wedged; there are so many ways to handle a lemon and bring in memories of sunny days. The coming spring rains could drag on, so any bit of comfort is nice to ward off the winter blues. Lemons are my go-to for winter cheer.

There are many different varieties of lemon, and if you have spent any time in California, you may already be familiar with some of the varieties. Here in the Northwest, we only see a few types. The Eureka or Meyer lemons are most common, along with the smaller Lisbon lemons. Citron is a cousin, along with the Bergamot lemon and Buddha’s hand. For the following recipes, a common lemon or Meyer lemon will be great. The Meyer is lemon is actually a cross between a lemon and a mandarin orange and was brought into the states by Frank Meyer. It quickly became a popular backyard lemon for Californians. The Meyer lemon has a lovely soft flavor vs. the acidity of a regular lemon. Lemons store well and can be kept on the counter, but they do best in the refrigerator. If you find you have too many lemons, you can zest and juice the lemons and freeze for later recipes, or you can preserve the lemons in salt and store for up to a year.

When I have a feeling for something lemony, my favorite is the Avgolemono Soup, a Greek classic that is the equivalent of a classic American chicken soup. It is a broth-based soup started with a whole chicken in water, and is finished with an infusion of lemon juice and egg yolks. The soup is incredibly delicious. I first had a lemon sauce on pasta when I was in culinary school and that sauce changed my life. Whenever I am feeling a little low, that’s what I have! Roast chicken and lemons are a classic and the Italians always bake with lemons, so I included a simple but delicious lemon Polenta cake. Any of these recipes are guaranteed to ward of the winter chill. Enjoy! Call me when it’s ready, I’ll bring lemons, Campari, and soda.

Roast Lemon Chicken

Roast Lemon Chicken

  • Sea salt
  • Fresh-cracked pepper
  • Whole chicken
  • Lemon, washed and pierced
  • Extra virgin olive oil

Wash and dry the chicken. If necessary, allow it to sit at room temperature to warm slightly and dry out. Rub the entire bird with olive oil, and season inside and out with abundant salt and pepper. Then pierce a lemon with a small, sharp knife multiple times and place into the interior of the bird. Tie the legs shut and tuck the wings back, place in a small roasting pan or baking dish, and roast at 400 degrees for 30 minutes. Then reduce the temperature to 350 degrees and finish cooking for another 20 minutes or until the internal temperature of the chicken reads 155 degrees. To get a proper reading, put a digital thermometer into the lower part of the chicken breast, parallel to the breastbone in the thick part of the breast.

Lemon Green Beans

  • Green beans
  • Extra virgin olive oil
  • Lemon juice and zest
  • Salt

Blanch green beans in boiling, salted water. Once the beans start to soften and turn bright green, remove from the water and place on a serving platter. Allow to cool at room temperature. Immediately drizzle with olive oil, sprinkle with salt and lemon juice, and then zest with a lemon. Garnish with parsley and/or shaved parmesan.

Lemon Green Beans

Avgolemono Soup

Avgolemono Soup

  • 1 3-pound, free-range chicken
  • 1/2 onion, 1 carrot, and 1 stalk of celery, washed and cut into large chunks for the broth
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 onion, finely diced
  • 1 carrot, peeled and quartered
  • 1 leek, white only, cleaned and quartered
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 2/3 cup Arborio, short grain, or pearl rice
  • 1/2 cup fresh lemon juice
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 tablespoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon ground pepper

Place the chicken in a large pot and add enough water to cover the chicken. Add the onion, carrot, and celery. Bring to a boil and reduce the heat to low, skimming when necessary. Heat the oil in a separate soup pot over medium heat and add the onions. Cook the onions until clear, about five minutes, and then add the leeks and carrots and sauté lightly. Set aside.

When the chicken is cooked through, 45 minutes to 1 hour, remove from the broth. Let the chicken cool, and then pull the meat from the bones. Dice into large cubes, pull the meat into strands, and set aside.

Strain the chicken broth and add to the sautéed vegetables. Bring to a simmer and add the rice and chicken meat. Simmer until the rice is cooked al dente, about 15-20 minutes. In a small bowl, beat the lemon juice and eggs together. Pour two cups of broth slowly into the bowl, whisking continuously. Once all the broth is incorporated, put the mixture into the pot of chicken soup and stir to blend well throughout. Add the salt and pepper to taste and serve immediately.

Fettuccine with Lemon Cream Sauce

  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1/2 yellow onion, minced fine
  • 1 1/2 cups cream
  • 1/4 cup salt for the pasta water and to taste
  • Fresh cracked pepper to taste
  • 1/2 lemon, zested
  • 6 stems Italian Parsley, rough chopped
  • 1 cup Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, grated fine
  • 1 pound fresh fettuccine

In a large mixing bowl, blend the lemon zest, half of the parsley, 1/2 cup of the cream, and 1/2 cup of parmesan. Season to taste, then in a small sauté pan, sweat the onion until translucent, add the remaining cream, and allow the mixture to reduce by half. Cool and add to the lemon zest mixture in the bowl.

Bring a large pot of water to boil (one gallon to the pound). Add the salt, then drop in the pasta. Cook until al dente, immediately add the hot pasta to the lemon sauce mixture (be sure to save some of the pasta water to help adjust the consistency of the sauce), stir until the hot pasta starts to absorb the sauce, add some of the cheese, and adjust the consistency with pasta water (the sauce shouldn’t be too dry). Pour pasta into the serving bowl and garnish with fresh parsley leaves and cheese.

Fettuccine with Lemon Cream Sauce

Lemon Polenta Cake

Lemon Polenta Cake

1 10”-springform pan and a
350-degree oven, preheated

  • 1 cup soft, unsalted butter
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 3 eggs
  • 6 egg yolks
  • 1 teaspoon almond extract
  • Lemon zest from one lemon
  • 3/4 cup sifted flour
  • 1/2 cup yellow cornmeal
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt

For the Cream:

  • 1 cup whipping cream
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • Zest of 1/2 lemon

Cream butter and sugar and add the eggs one at a time, allowing each to incorporate and whipping until fluffy. Add the almond extract and lemon zest. Blend the flours and fold into the wet mixture. Pour into buttered and cornmeal coated pans, and bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes. Allow to cool, and serve with lightly whipped cream flavored with lemon zest and sugar.

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