My mom is the most generous person I know. If you complement something she’s wearing (provided it’s not her pants!), she’s been known to take it off and give it to you. Throughout my childhood I watched as household objects found their way into the hands of guests who admired them. But ask for one of the lemons from her tree…and watch out! The shirt off her back she will gladly give, but lemons are a different story.
Recently a neighbor stopped by with a number of bottles of premium local wine. As the neighbor left, my mom gave her a handful of lemons to take home. To the casual observer this would seem like somewhat of an unfair trade; however, if you knew how closely my mom guards her lemons, you would understand that this was BIG. The lemons hang in front of her office window and throughout the year my mom watches the fragrant white blossoms turn into almond-sized green orbs and eventually become vibrant yellow balls of sweet-tart juice. Sometimes I have to ask for clarification when my mom mentions her “friends.” It sounds crazy—a bit like Beatrix Potter talking to her confidant Peter Rabbit—but my mom considers her lemons her friends. I'm not yet sure if this is loony or sweet.
The lemons are indeed both beautiful and delicious and add zest and tang to nearly any dish. With this in mind, I did some sweet-talking and eventually was allowed a small basketful of lemons, which were carefully counted. With the 13 lemons I was given, I created a lemon inspired Italian feast. The following recipes are two of the favorites from that meal. I hope you enjoy them as much as I did.
Insalata di Frutti di Mare al Limone
or Italian Ceviche
Serves 2 as a salad
Serves 4-6 as an appetizer on crostini
1 lb mixed seafood (shrimp, scallops, calamari, white fish—whatever is available)
1 shallot finely diced
2 tbs capers + a bit of caper juice
1 red bell pepper, cut into small pieces
1 cucumber, peeled and cut into small pieces
1/2 cup chopped parsley from one small bunch
juice of 2 lemons (4 tbs)
2 tbs extra-virgin olive oil (If you want it to be more ceviche like, omit the oil)
1 tsp Dijon mustard
2 tsp sugar
1/2 tsp. sea salt
1/4 tsp. fresh ground pepper
Blanch the seafood in boiling water until just cooked. Drain and run under cool water or
dunk in an ice bath to preserve color and stop the cooking. Mix with the other ingredients and dress with the vinaigrette. Allow the salad to marinate for at least a few hours or overnight to get the best flavor. Enjoy on crostini as an appetizer or on a bed of greens as a salad.
Luscious Lemony Linguine
with Kale and Chicken
1 bunch of kale, stalk removed and torn into pieces
2 cloves garlic, diced
3 tbs butter
zest of one lemon
juice of 1 lemon (approx. 2 tbs)
1/4 cup crème fraiche
1 chicken breast, cut into small pieces (use more to make the dish heartier)
salt and pepper to taste
1 lb. linguine, cooked according to the directions on the package
Put the kale in a large sauté pan and sprinkle with water (if you wash it right before, the damp leaves should be moist enough to keep it from burning). Cover and cook on medium-low heat (approx 15-20 minutes), stirring occasionally. When the kale is tender, add the garlic, butter, lemon zest, and lemon juice. Once the butter is melted and a rich sauce is beginning to form (yum!), add the chicken. Remove from the heat when the chicken is cooked and mix in the crème fraiche. Combine with the linguine and serve with grated Parmesan cheese. Wow!
Note: Leftover crème fraiche can be used as a topping for apple pie or tarte tatin, or try it with organic berries or sorbet. It’s also delicious with smoked salmon or mixed with chives to serve with crudités, but I’m a huge fan of dipping my fingers in the carton and eating it plain. Crème fraiche is delicious on pretty much anything or by itself! But it’s rich, so moderation is a good idea (or so I tell myself as I lick the lid clean…)