After Portland, I went home to Berkeley, food paradise, and also paradise of the elusive citrus known as the Meyer lemon. I don’t know how well known meyer lemons are on the east coast, but on the west coast, they are ubiquitous, and I mean ubiquitous in the best way. Meyers are rounder than your typical lemon, have a much thinner peel, and oranger, sweeter flesh. In other words, they are delicious — a delicacy and a treat. (A little more background on Meyer lemons can be found here.) When I was a little kid, I used to make lemonade with Meyers from our backyard tree (pictured above). If only I had known then that I should market it as organic, locally-grown, Meyer lemon lemonade! I would have made a fortune by now…
As far as I can tell, Meyer lemons can basically replace regular lemons in any recipe, though you will have to adjust the sugar (because Meyers are so much sweeter), and the end result may still not be as tart. In many cases, though, their more delicate flavor is desirable.
Both of the following recipes can be made with regular lemon juice. In the case of the long promised aioli (per Phil’s request), regular lemon juice may actually work better. In the case of the curd, you may need to adjust the level of sugar, though I think you should be able to dissolve a little bit more in at the end if necessary. Point is, don’t shy away from these recipes just because they employ Meyer lemons as opposed to regular. They are both basically egg yolk + some other stuff + a flavoring (in this case, lemon juice) + a cooking method. Both will require you to separate eggs, which is actually really, really easy, and (I think) really, really fun. Click here for a quick primer on how to separate eggs. Also, in both cases, you can change the flavoring to another citrus fruit or, in the aioli, another flavor entirely (suggestions in the recipes). So go wild! And when you DO come across some Meyers, come back and try one of these again, or my recipe for Candied Meyer Lemon Peel, coming later this week.
(Adapted from a combination of Mark Bittman’s The Minimalist Cooks at Home and Nancy Silverton’s Sandwich Book)
There are many methods for making aioli — by hand, in a blender, or in a food processor — and two different oil possibilities — all olive oil or half olive oil and half vegetable oil. My strong preference for method is using a food processor; I’ve never tried by hand, but food processor works perfectly, and I found the blender to be problematic because oil got trapped down by the blades and didn’t mix in. My equally strong preference for oil is all extra-virgin olive oil; some people may think it has too strong a flavor (why you use vegetable oil to lighten it up), but I guess I like it potent! You can also use a whole egg instead of an egg yolk, but that’s just crazy talk — the egg yolk gives aioli its beautiful yellow color, as well as thickens it up nicely. And finally, some people prefer vinegar to lemon juice as the acid. That’s fine. I prefer lemon juice — you can experiment (but don’t be confused: while this provides a variation for Meyer Lemon Aioli that uses Meyer lemon juice, all aiolis need some form of acid; so you will use lemon juice — or vinegar — in any aioli you make).
Also, another note. Usually my aioli goes perfectly on the first try. This time, however, it actually “broke,” which is to say the oil and egg didn’t emulsify correctly and I was left with an bunch of oil with some globs of aioli like mixture floating around in it. I attribute this, in small part, to the blender and, in large part, to the additional lemon juice I added to make the flavor of the milder Meyer lemons come across. Thankfully, I learned a lesson for both me and you, and found out that there is an easy fix for “broken” aioli — it is listed at the bottom of the recipe.
Here is the basic recipe for aioli. Depending on what flavor aioli you want, you will either substitute or add other ingredients (see below):
1 egg yolk
2 tsp. Dijon mustard
1 cup olive oil
salt and freshly ground pepper
2 tbsp. lemon juice
For Meyer Lemon Aioli, substitute 3-4 tbsp. Meyer lemon juice for the regular lemon juice, and also add the finely grated zest of two Meyer lemons at the end along with the juice.
1. Combine egg yolk, mustard, salt and pepper in food processor, pulsing on and off a few times.
2. With machine running, add oil in a slow stream through the top hole.
3. When mixture begins to get thick and creamy, you can start adding oil faster.
4. When everything is integrated, add lemon juice, pulsing in a few times.
– If aioli is thicker than you want, you can thin with warm water, sweet cream, or sour cream.
– If the aioli doesn’t come together (a distinct possibility with this much lemon juice), not all is lost! Pour out the mixture into a bowl. Clean the food processor as best you can (you don’t have to do it neurotically, but so the sides are at least wiped down). Put another egg yolk into the food processor and pulse on and off so it’s broken. Then slowly add your “broken” aioli to the egg yolk, just like you originally added olive oil. It should thicken back up.
– Garlic aioli (the best and classic): add a clove (or two, or three) of garlic at the very beginning
– Other things you can try adding at the very beginning: ½ cup roasted red peppers, any number of fresh herbs (adding more at the end if the flavor isn’t strong enough), 2-3 anchovy fillets
– Use a different type of acid: instead of lemon juice, use lime or orange juice, or any kind of vinegar
– Add any number of dry spices, horseradish, or Worcestershire sauce at the end.
Meyer Lemon Curd
½ c. Meyer lemon juice
1 tbsp. tart lemon juice (from an ordinary lemon)
grated zest of 1 Meyer lemon
½ c. sugar
8 tbsp. (1 stick) unsalted butter
¼ tsp. salt
3 whole eggs
3 egg yolks
1. Combine lemon juice (Meyer and regular), zest, sugar, butter, and salt in heavy-bottomed nonreactive saucepan. Stir gently over low heat until butter is melted.
2. Briefly whisk eggs and egg yolks together in a large bowl.
3. Slowly pour about half of the hot lemon mixture into the eggs, whisking all the while (this is so they incorporate the heat slowly and don’t turn into scrambled eggs).
4. Slowly whisk egg-lemon mixture back into remaining lemon mixture.
5. Cook over low heat, scraping bottom constantly, until mixture thickens (about 5 minutes). Do not boil.
6. Pour thickened mixture through fine-mesh sieve into a bowl. Refrigerate until cold and firm.
– Thickening time may vary. I don’t think I thickened mine (pictured) long enough, plus it had to survive a BART ride in the 90 degree heat and a re-cooling. So I’d say it came out rather well, given the conditions.
– You don’t absolutely have to put the curd through the sieve, but it’s a nice touch, and will catch the tiny bit of over-thickened curd that still tastes great but would disrupt your otherwise wonderfully silky finished product.
– You could also make this with grapefruits, oranges, limes, or any other citrus fruit, though you might have to adjust the sugar slightly depending.