Episode 98 For the Love of Lemons

Years ago, I read and interview and the reporter asked the person what was one thing they always had in their refrigerator. This question has stuck with me and if I was ever asked, my answer would be lemons. I always have lemons in my refrigerator. Every night before I go to bed, I squeeze ½ of a lemon in a mason jar and fill it with water. I drink some of the lemon water at bedtime and the rest in the morning. I have been known to bring a lemon with me on airplanes to ensure I don’t have to go a day without my lemon water.

 

Lemons are so versatile. They can make the most basic foods taste extraordinary. They are not unlike salt. Kendra Adachi says salt makes things taste more like themselves and a little lemon juice used correctly can do the same thing. Acid is one of the most under utilized elements in American cooking. A little squeeze of lemon juice can transform a dish. If you haven’t read Salt Fat Acid Heat by Samin Nosrat I highly recommend getting a copy. You will learn so much about the chemistry of food and it will make you a better cook.

 

There are three basic parts of the lemon and they all can be useful in cooking. The zest is the very outer part of the lemon. It contains oils of the lemon and is packed with flavor. The best tool for zesting a lemon is a micro plane graterThis is a workhorse in my kitchen and I use it several times a week. If you don’t have a micro plane you can use the smallest holes on a box grater or peel off the zest with a vegetable peeler and chop finely with a chef’s knife.

 

The white part of the peel under the zest is called the pith. It is bitter and sometimes that is what you need for a dish. The two best examples of needing the pith are piccata and marmalade. Both of these foods need the balance that the bitter pith brings.

 

The final part of the lemon is the inside flesh that is juiced. Fresh lemon juice can elevate most foods. It is one of the most acidic ingredients in the kitchen. I like to use a hand-held lemon juicer I have a reamer and use it on occasion, but you have to strain out the seeds when using a reamer. In a pinch, I have even used a fork to twist inside half of a lemon and extract as much juice as possible.

Lemons can transform savory foods like my Frozen Vegetables, or Lemon Ramen Chicken. Please try squeezing a wedge of lemon over your next bowl of chicken noodle soup. I promise you will be pleasantly surprised. But the place lemons really shine are in sweet foods. Lemon Curd, Lemon Scones, and Lemon Blueberry Baked Oatmeal are three of my favorites. A little lemon juice will brighten any fruit. You will not taste the lemon, but it will make the fruit taste more like itself. I put lemon juice in my fruit salad, apple pie, and cherry pie. You won’t taste it, but you will miss it if you leave out the lemon juice. The bright acid is key to enhancing flavor.

This post contains affiliate links.

For a transcript of this episode click here. 

 

Marie Fiebach is a married mother of four active kids. She helps busy families plan and execute weeknight dinner so they can recapture a little calm in the crazy. You can see her every week on KAKE TV’s Good Morning Kakeland or listen to the Feed Your Family Tonight Podcast.

Fruit Salad Dressing

Does fruit salad need a dressing? Technically no, but this simple dressing will take your fruit salad from good to amazing! It is one of my favorite things to take with a meal to a friend in need. It is simple and delicious. If you prefer not to use refined sugar, I have made it with honey. If you don’t have mint, you can leave it out, but the mint really adds a lot of flavor to this simple dressing.

You can add this dressing to any combination of fruits you prefer. I like to get whatever is in season. The one thing to remember is to not add bananas until just before serving because they will get mushy. Apples, pears and peaches will not brown because the acid in the lemon and lime juice prevents browning. The salad is best if it sits in the refrigerator for at least two hours before serving. The mint and dressing penetrate the fruits as it rests in the refrigerator.

Dressing for Fruit Salad

Juice of 1 Lemon

Juice of 1 Lime

2 teaspoons sugar (or honey)

2-3 large sprigs of Fresh Mint

 

Directions:

In a large bowl, mix lemon juice, lime juice and sugar (or honey.) Mix well to dissolve the sugar. Add your cut fruit and stir well. Add mint sprigs and refrigerate salad for at least two hours.

To serve, remove mint sprigs and stir well before serving.

Instant Pot Lemony Chicken

Lemony Chicken

I like to keep cooked chicken in my freezer. It is handy to add to soups or quesadillas. Usually I roast whole chickens and make bone broth, but lately I have been turning to my Instant Pot. I usually have chicken taco meat in the freezer, but that does not go well in chicken noodle soup.

Enter Lemony Chicken. Lemony chicken is my new favorite. I make it with boneless, skinless chicken thighs. The light lemon flavor adds so much to other dishes. The recipe makes 3 pounds so there is enough for dinner and extra to put in the freezer. I like to serve it with rice and veggies and then freeze the rest with all the juices from the pot. I add the juices in with chicken broth when making soups or other recipes.

It is amazing how 1 lemon can totally transform the flavor of the chicken meat. If you are new to the Instant Pot, check out Thriving Home and get their free Instant Pot Cooking Times Chart. It really is a great resource. In this recipe, I found that because the meat is stacked without much liquid it takes a couple minutes more to get the meat to temperature.

Instant Pot Lemony Chicken

3-3 1/2 Pounds Boneless, Skinless Chicken Thighs

1 Tablespoon Coarse Sea Salt

1 Lemon (zest and juice)

1/3 Cup Water

Directions

Using a kitchen scissors, cut off any large fat pockets on the edges of the chicken thighs. It is okay to have a little fat, but you want to cut off the big streaks of fat.

Zest the lemon and place on a small plate or cutting board. Mix the salt and lemon zest together. (I just use my fingers to combine.) Layer the chicken thighs in the instant pot. Sprinkle the lemon zest and salt over each piece of chicken before covering with the next layer. Once all the chicken is in the pot, sprinkle any remaining salt and lemon zest on top of the raw chicken.

Add the water and juice from the lemon and lock on the lid of the instant pot. Cook on high pressure for 10 minutes with a quick release.

Remove the meat from the pot and shred with 2 forks. You can eat immediately, or freeze with the juices from the pot to use in recipes later.