Tag Archives: lemon

Meyer Lemon Cookies & Lavender Lemonade

A long time ago my friend Katrina told me about a pitcher of lavender lemonade she made. She raved about it. Oh my goodness it was the best thing ever. And then she never made some and sent to me by UPS or FedEx or DHL. What gives? How do you not figure out a way to send me such precious and awesome lemonade?

Okay just kidding about that last part. But the description and concept of the lemonade really stuck with me. I always have lavender around (for things like lavender lemon bars) but until I stumbled on a bag of Meyer lemons for $2 (Hey-o!) I hadn’t thought seriously about making it. And now I can’t imagine why! This is delicious and refreshing. But my issue with the lemonade was that it didn’t use the precious zest of the Meyer lemons.

Have you used Meyer lemons before? They are incredible. They’re soooo different than regular lemons: sweeter and somehow more lemony. It sounds like a contradiction but I promise it isn’t. They are also far more juicier. And their zest is delicious. So I set out to make some small cookies to go with the lemonade.

I wanted a cakey cookie and one whose other ingredients wouldn’t compete with the lemon zest flavor. I realized that black and white cookies had the texture I wanted and once I eliminated the lemon extract (superfluous, don’t you think?) and vanilla extract, the lemon zest would be the main flavor. I came up with a cake-like cookie with tiny shreds of lemon zest that gave just the right amount of not-sour, lemony goodness.

Meyer Lemon Cookies (adapted loosely from smittenkitchen’s Black and White cookie recipe-which are yummy):

2/3 C sugar
1 stick unsalted, room temperature butter
2 eggs
1/2 C milk
1/4 tsp vanilla extract
zest of 5-6 Meyer lemons
1 C cake flour
1 C all-purpose flour
1/4 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt

These lemony, cakey cookies are simple to make and just taste like summer. To make them even more moist, I think I’ll throw in a couple dollops of yogurt next time. To quote Ms. Fancy-pants herself, “How bad can that be?”

These would be wonderful as a small cake with a powdered sugar glaze. In fact, a thin powdered sugar glaze would be yummy on the cookies but they are delicious without a glaze of any kind.

Lavender Lemonade (adapted from Elise’s basic lemonade recipe):

1 C Meyer lemon juice (about 6 lemons)
3 1/2 C water
prepared sweet lavender syrup (below)
ice for serving

Sweet Lavender Syrup (adapted from, er, that one time when Katrina told me about lavender lemonade):

3/4 C sugar
1 C water
2 Tbsp lavender flowers

First make the lavender syrup. Combine lavender, sugar and water in a small saucepan over medium heat. Cook until the sugar dissolves and then turn off the heat. Let this sit for at least ten minutes before straining and adding to the other ingredients. The syrup should be fragrant and slightly purple in color.

While the syrup is cooking, juice the lemons. If you’ve never used Meyer lemons before, watch out. They are incredibly juicy and their peels are so thin and fragile, they will break if you twist the halved lemons on a juicer. It seems best to just press the halved lemons on the juicer to extract most of the juice and then squeeze the flattened lemon with your hands. I got just over a cup of the most yellow-y yellow lemon juice.

Around this time the lavender syrup should be finished and ready to mix in. Pour the lavender syrup and then the lemon juice though a strainer and a funnel into a pitcher. Add in 3 1/2-4 1/2 cups of water depending on how strong you want the lemonade. Refrigerate until completely chilled. Serve over ice with a bendy straw. (<-That part is really important. Don’t skip that step.)

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Jamie Oliver’s Chicken in Milk Plus Homemade Stock

Don’t run away yet. This dish is insanely good in spite of its weirder than weird ingredients. If you don’t believe me, go check with the other foodbloggers. I’m certainly not the first to talk about Jamie’s brilliance with odd ingredients.

In fact, I remember watching the Naked Chef and just loving Jamie and his oddball expressions. He’s the one who first introduced me to the vodka in a watermelon trick! Now he’s a spokesperson for eating healthy and responsibly. His recipes focus on homegrown and ethically sourced ingredients (which I don’t always have access to–hey I’m on a small food budget that I spend too much of on treats to share with co-workers and friends) and the recipes are as delicious as ever.

Adapted from Jamie Oliver’s site (recipe first found on thekitchn)

1 whole fryer chicken with insides removed
salt and pepper
2 Tbsp butter
olive oil
1/2 cinnamon stick
handful of fresh sage
2 lemons
10 cloves garlic
2 C milk

Preheat the oven to 375. Put the butter and a drizzle of olive oil in a dutch oven over medium-high heat. I hate to say this all the time, but really a dutch oven is better than a large stockpot or anything else for this dish. My dutch oven is indispensable to me. And you can get one for a pretty decent price. Wash the chicken and pat dry with paper towels. Season with salt and pepper and place in the dutch oven. It should sizzle and crack–that means the skin is browning! By the way, I always always use Kosher salt for cooking but this especially is a reason to use it. Kosher salt is rough and jagged and sticks to food better than iodized table salt which is rounded and falls off.

While the chicken is browning, zest both lemons and tear the leaves off of the sage. Jamie also says to leave the skins on the garlic cloves but I took them off 1. for fear that they would get lost in the sauce and I’d eat one and 2. because I figured I could smash one of the cloves on some bread.

When the first side is browned, turn the chicken over to brown the other side. Don’t worry, the chicken will cook through when you put it in the oven. When the second side is browned, remove the chicken to a plastic cutting board (using raw meat on wooden cutting boards freaks me out). Put the milk, zest, garlic and sage leaves in the pot and stir well. Place the cut lemons (with seeds removed) and the cinnamon stick in the cavity of the chicken. Jamie doesn’t do this either but I’m always a fan of aromatics inside chickens and turkeys. Place the chicken back in the pot and bring the milk sauce to a simmer.

At this point I looked at the contents of the dutch oven and thought to myself This can’t possibly end well! Look at this gunk! But Jamie proved me wrong and taught me never to question a Naked man because clearly if he’s bold enough to be Naked, he’s right about something.

Place the lid on the pot and the pot in the oven for 30 minutes. After 30 minutes, take the lid off and baste the chicken with the sauce. There are so many clumps in the sauce that it’s a good idea to just use a spoon instead of a baster. Keep the chicken in the oven for another hour, basting occasionally. When the time is up, remove the chicken and test the temperature with an instant-read thermometer inserted to the thickest part of the meat. The temp should read 165 or higher. Cook longer if need be.

The chicken is so succulent and moist and the lemon, sage, and cinnamon somehow complement each other so well. Everything just works in this dish. I like to cut off some meat (I prefer white to dark) and spoon on some of the thin, lemony milk. The sauce is also great on creamy mashed potatoes and I imagine it would be great on broccoli too. There’s an entire dinner idea for ya. Boil potatoes, mash with butter, salt, pepper and cream, microwave frozen broccoli and make this chicken. Easy, delicious, and budget-friendly. This is perfect for a busy weeknight or any night when you have lots of homework.

If Ina Garten makes anything that isn’t a lemon tart, it is pretty much inevitable that she will use chicken stock and tell you that you can use store-bought chicken stock but it’s really best to use homemade. Every. Time. And use good olive oil, good vanilla, and her overpriced boxed mixes. From what I can tell, these are the credos of the Barefoot Contessa. I can agree on the vanilla (why not make your own!), the olive oil for dipping (inexpensive is fine for other stuff), and the chicken stock. Homemade chicken stock is cheaper, more flavorful, and allows you to control the amount of sodium which is important since you can control the sodium in dish you use the stock in. Big deal. So when you’re done with the chicken, toss the bones and tough parts in a pot with some water, leftover vegetables, and whatever leftover herbs you’ve accumulated and stored in the freezer. I use store-bought fresh herbs in the winter and I can never use them before they go bad. So a few days before they get gross, I stick them in the freezer in a little bag. Whenever I have extra vegetable pieces I add those too. This can also be done with just bones–beef, veal, etc or just vegetables. So in this batch of stock I used the bones and attached meat of the chicken, lots of water, a cut up carrot, asparagus ends (remember those?), sage, basil, and chives. Just boil this for a while, then cover, reduce the heat and ignore for a while longer. It freezes or stays in the fridge for a few days. You can also label plastic bags with measurements and spoon cupfuls of broth in before freezing. Quick, easy, and smart storage.

Update 4/12/10

Michael Ruhlman gives a great set of instructions (and reasons for using) for stock. So does Thomas Keller and co. in his French Laundry cookbook. It’s worth checking out at the library for the best instructions for complicated, takes-a-few-days stock. Carol of French Laundry at Home and Alinea at Home fame goes through the French Laundry process and the Alinea process because she is clearly a rockstar. But like Michael says, the most important thing is to make your own stock…however you do it. He even prefers water to bought stock. (Shocking!)

Lavender-Lemon Bars

Lemon bars are one of those things like deviled eggs that I love for other people to make. For some reason, it never seemed like something that would be easy. “Never seemed like something that would be easy?” I make bread and layer cakes and cappuccino fudge cheesecakes. Something being complicated never stopped me before! So I went for it today. I really wanted to try adding lavender to the next lemony thing I made so this was my chance.

Do your friends and family members  hate lemon-flavored things? My dad hates anything lemony which is so limiting. Of course, it’s also really funny when a person who doesn’t like lemons gets a lemon-meringue pie in his face on his birthday. (Yeah, that happened. Way to go, Clara.) No lemon-pepper chicken! No lemon cake! No lemon-poppyseed muffins! Shame. Chad usually doesn’t like lemon things, but he tried these lemon bars and actually really liked them. I had to be excited about that.

Adapted from The Bon Appetit cookbook 2006 ed.

1 Tbsp (+ 2 pinches) dried lavender flowers
1 1/2 C (+ 4 tsp) flour
1/2 C powdered sugar (plus more for dusting)
3/4 C unsalted butter at room temperature

4 eggs
1 1/2 C granulated sugar
zest of 2 lemons
1/2 C lemon juice

Preheat your oven to 350 and get ready to smell lavender! You’re going to find it easiest if you have a spice grinder or coffee grinder. A food processor could work, or you can just use a mortar and pestle. I used Chad’s spice/coffee grinder. It’s awesome. Grind up 1 Tbsp lavender in the grinder. The remaining 2 pinches will be left whole.

Mix together all dry ingredients for the shortbread in a bowl. Add the butter and blend in with a pastry blender (alternatively, you can do all of this in a food processor). It is combined enough when it looks like the picture above.

Now eat a thin mint. Because you worked hard making that dough and your roommate wants to reward you. Now put the dough in a 9×13 pan and press down firmly with your fingers. You want the dough to be even and well pressed. Bake for 20 minutes at 350.

Meanwhile, zest and juice two lemons. You’ll probably have more than a 1/2 C of juice but you can use that for salad dressing or lemon-pepper chicken. Or stick it in the fridge. By the way, do you have lots of fun zesting things? I do. I love it. And I love my microplane zester. It’s delightful and yellow and I got it on sale. Wonderful.

Here is the lineup for the topping. Mix the eggs and sugar until completely combined. Next add the lemon juice and zest and mix well. When the shortbread has baked, pour the topping mixture over the hot shortbread (this is important–don’t let the shortbread cool) and sprinkle on a few lavender flowers. Bake for another 20 minutes (still at 350).

Doesn’t that look yummy? And just ever-so-slightly browned. But you’re gonna have to let them cool. I KNOW. I hate when things have to cool before I can eat them.

Carefully cut the lemon bars into squares (or plain-old rectangles!) and place on a cooling rack. I put paper towels under mine for easy clean up, but you can just wipe the counter instead. Now dust the tops with powdered sugar and arrange on a pretty plate.

Oh my goodness.  These are easily the best lemon bars I’ve ever had. The lavender adds a perfectly light, floral aroma and complements the tart lemon. What amazed me most was the yummy shortbread bottom. Usually I’m not a shortbread person but this had just the right texture and floral flavor. And oftentimes lemon bar crusts are super buttery to the point of being greasy, but not these. It’s buttery, but not greasy. Please make these. It gives you an excuse to buy lavender and guys, it’s cheap and makes everything smell awesome. Just do it.