I kinda’ went nuts on my last trip to California. You’ll recall from a previous column we make that trip quite often for business but also to visit our son who has a Meyer lemon tree in his back yard. I have never seen such a prolific fruit tree in my life. It’s not on any kind of lemon steroids; it gets no preferential care like pruning or watering. Apparently, it thrives on being left alone.

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I always load up my suitcase with lemons but for some reason, this last trip I went crazy. How crazy? I arrived home with 35 pounds of gorgeous, perfectly ripened Meyer lemons.

My friends got lemons. I squeezed lemon juice for the freezer. This past month, I’ve made Lemon Chicken, Lemon Bars and “Lemons in a Jar” for gifts.

While I haven’t come up with a way to share lemons with you, I can gladly share my favorite recipes. Enjoy!

LEMON GARLIC CHICKEN

  • 4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
  • 1 cup chicken broth
  • 1/3 cup heavy cream
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped red onion
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 3 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh basil
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes (optional)
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
  • Lemon slices, garnish
  1. Preheat oven to 375 F and pound chicken breasts out to 1/2-inch thickness. Season both sides generously with salt and pepper. Heat olive oil in a large, oven proof skillet and brown chicken breasts over medium-high heat for 2 to 3 minutes per side.
  2. Transfer chicken to a separate plate and saute red onion in remaining juices until softened, 6 to 8 minutes. Season with salt and pepper.
  3. Add garlic and saute for 1 minute, or until fragrant, then pour in chicken both, lemon juice and red pepper flakes.
  4. Reduce heat to medium and cook, stirring occasionally, for 8 to 10 minutes or until thickened. Make sure to scrape up browned bits from the bottom of skillet.
  5. Remove skillet from heat and whisk in heavy cream. Return to low heat and cook for 30 seconds then remove from heat again.
  6. Return chicken to pan and cover it in sauce.
  7. Place skillet in oven and cook for 5-7 minutes or until chicken is cooked through completely. Remove from oven and top with fresh basil and lemon slices. Sear hot. Serves: 4

LEMON BARS

For the shortbread crust:

  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter at room temperature
  • 1/4 cup confectioners’ sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt

For the lemon layer:

  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 large egg yolk
  • 1 cup white sugar
  • 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon freshly grated lemon zest
  • 1 teaspoon confectioners’ sugar, or to taste
  1. Place an oven rack into middle position in oven and preheat oven to 350 F. Lightly oil an 8×8-inch baking dish.
  2. Place 1 cup flour and butter in a mixing bowl and mash with the back of a spatula or wooden spoon until thoroughly combined. Mix in 1/4 cup confectioners’ sugar, vanilla extract, and salt; mash mixture together until mixture looks like a slightly crumbly cookie dough.
  3. Moisten your fingers with a little water and press dough into bottom of prepared baking dish.
  4. Bake crust on center rack in the preheated oven until crust edges are barely golden brown, 22 minutes.
  5. Beat eggs and egg yolks together in a bowl; whisk in white sugar and 2 tablespoons flour until smooth. Add lemon juice and lemon zest; whisk for 2 minutes. Pour lemon custard over crust.
  6. Bake on center rack until custard is set and top has a thin white sugary crust, 25 minutes. Let cool completely before cutting into bars. Dip knife into very hot water, run around the edge, and cut into 16 squares. Dust cookies with 1 teaspoon confectioners’ sugar. Yield: 16 bars.

LEMONS IN A JAR

Whole preserved lemons are a specialty food item; they also make a wonderful decorative statement when displayed on a counter or shelf in a glass jar.

  • 2 (one-quart) glass canning jars with lids
  • 4 1/2 quarts water
  • 7 to 10 whole lemons
  • 2/3 cup salt
  • 2 (3-inch) cinnamon sticks
  • 4 teaspoons coriander seeds
  • 2 teaspoons black peppercorns
  • 8 whole cloves
  • 1 cup olive oil
  1. Wash lemons very well. Pour three quarts of water into a stainless steel or other nonreactive saucepan. Bring to a boil and add the lemons. Bring back to boil and cook the lemons for 3 minutes. Drain and immerse the lemons in cold water until they are cool enough to handle. Drain again and set aside. In a saucepan, combine 1 1/2 quarts water, salt and the spices. Bring to a boil over high heat. Remove from the stove. Add olive oil.
  2. Fill hot, dry, sterilized jars with lemons (add a few clean lemon leaves if available). Ladle the hot brine into the jars to within 1/2 inch of the rims. Cover with lids and apply screw-on rings. Store sealed jars in a cool place for two months before using. Brine will darken slightly.
  3. Attach this message to jar: Preserved Lemons are an important ingredient in Middle Eastern soups and stews where they impart a tart, salty flavor. Cut them into small pieces for salads, add to couscous or serve them as an appetizer along with olives and salted nuts. Best if used within six months or before [insert date]. Once opened, store in refrigerator.

photo credit: typeslist.com

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