Lemon Lift

Lemon Hands

If you’re wondering what to do with the lemons in this week’s farm share beyond squeezing into a pitcher of water, know that these sleek yellow orbs are among the most useful tools in the kitchen.  On a par with salt and pepper.

Roasted Brussel Sprouts with Walnuts, Pomegranate and Meyer LemonLentil Soup with Roasted CarrotsA lemon tucked in the fridge means we’re ready to finesse dinner, even in the most desperate of circumstances.  The simplest salad is dressed with a squeeze of the tart fruit and a drizzle of oil.  And the same combination brightens up a pan of roasted vegetables or an unassuming sauté.  Lemon balances the earthiness of lentil soup and punctuates a loose bowl of whole grains.

Even if you have nothing more to work with than a package of pasta, a wedge of Parmesan and a few cloves of garlic, a classic dinner is just minutes away—one that even a child can produce (or an adult who is nearly spent after a long day).  Boil up long noodles until they are nearly al dente.  Meanwhile quickly sauté a couple cloves of minced garlic and a pinch of red pepper flakes with a bit of oil in a large skillet for just a few seconds.  Drain the pasta and toss everything together with salt and a generous amount of fresh lemon juice and grated cheese—right in the pan.  Add a drizzle of olive oil, and since we have it this week, toss in roughly chopped arugula leaves for an extra kick of flavor.  There is no simpler or more satisfying supper than this one.

Israeli Couscous Salad with Lemon and SpinachLemon is famous for its juice, but its fragrant zest (a fancy word for finely grated rind) is equally useful.  Zest adds lemon flavor to food without the mouth-puckering acidity of the juice.  Try stirring a spoonful of zest into roasted vegetables.  This week I’ll cube carrots, spread them in a single layer across a baking sheet, and toss with olive oil and a sprinkling of salt.  Since carrots sometimes dry out in a hot oven, I’ll cover them with foil and roast in at 400 degrees for 20 minutes.  After they have softened nicely I remove the foil, stir and turn the roots and roast a bit longer (10 minutes at most) until they’re peppered with a few splotches of golden brown.  I sometimes add a bit of garlic during the last 10 minutes of cooking, or if I’m craving spice I toss the cubes with a sprinkling of ground or whole cumin seeds, ground coriander and paprika (smoked or sweet) before they go into the oven.  When the vegetables are tender, I drizzle the lot with a healthy squeeze of lemon juice along with a spoonful of zest and a few toasted nuts.  These fragrant roots will be tasty as a side dish, or folded into whole grains like brown rice, farro or quinoa they’ll satisfy as a healthy main dish.

Still, there’s nothing more refreshing than a slice of lemon in a cool glass of water.  I’ll be stirring some of that up, too.

Recipes for the week:

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