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The flavor and fragrance of lemon will enhance almost any dish

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By Norm Harding, Reporter

U

sed in everything from baking to main entrees to sauce making, lemons bring a bright aroma and tangy flavor to almost any dish, enhancing the flavors of all the ingredients. Lemon perks up everything, and even its “zest” seems to give food a lift. After salt and pepper, the most commonly used flavoring ingredient is probably lemon.

Lemon seems to interact with our taste buds so that the flavors that follow are more pronounced. Being highly acidic, lemon juice will react differently with different foods. Its acid is why lemon juice is commonly used in marinades, as it helps to dissolve connective tissues in meat. But if you marinade your meat too long, the opposite effect will take place, causing the muscle fibers of the meat to toughen up.

In addition to the many uses of lemon juice, its zest would qualify as a separate ingredient. Mixed with garlic and parsley, it becomes a gremolata, as used in Osso Bucco, or just sprinkle it over casseroles. When removing the zest, use a vegetable peeler for strips, a zester for strands or just grate it, making sure you use only the bright yellow outer layer, not the bitter white pith. 

Lemon in desserts

We all can appreciate the tantalizing tartness of a dessert made with lemon. Used mostly as a flavor intensifier, the acidic lemon fruit provides a sharp contrast to the sweetness of pies, cakes, and puddings. A basic lemon sauce is made with lemon juice, cornstarch, sugar and butter. Some of these tangy, lemon treats include: lemon sponge pudding, lemon coconut bars, lemon cookies with lemon icing, lemon cheese pie (made with lemon, eggs, cream cheese, vanilla and heavy cream baked in a pie crust), lemon refrigerator cookies, lemon crisp and lemon cake, topped with a cream cheese frosting.

Lemon Parmesan Pasta with Grilled Chicken

Lemony pasta seasoned with Parmesan and fresh herbs is topped with a grilled chicken breast.

2 small skinless, boneless chicken breasts

6 oz. angel hair pasta

Extra-virgin olive oil

2 Tbsps. melted butter

1 lemon, zested and juiced

5-6 fresh basil leaves, julienned

1 tsp. freshly chopped oregano

1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese

Salt and pepper to taste

Season chicken breasts with black pepper and a little salt. Place on grill or grill pan and drizzle with olive oil. Cook until chicken is no longer pink and done completely through (if grilling, grill at medium heat-about 350 degrees).

Meanwhile, drizzle some olive oil in a large pot of boiling salted water, add the angel hair, and cook al dente, about 5 minutes. Drain the pasta and reserve some of the cooking liquid. Toss the pasta with the melted butter, 1/4 cup olive oil, lemon zest, lemon juice, salt and pepper, basil, oregano and about 1/2 cup of the reserved cooking liquid. Sprinkle with grated Parmesan cheese and toss.

Place equal amounts of pasta on each plate. Cut the chicken breasts into one-inch wide strips and place over pasta. Makes 2 servings.

Greek Lemon Soup with Dill

This soup is usually served cold with green onions and dill added before serving.

4 cups chicken stock

1/4 cup long-grain white rice

2 large eggs

3 Tbsps. fresh lemon juice

1 green onion, thinly sliced

2 Tbsps. chopped fresh dill (or 1 Tbsp. freeze-dried)

In a medium saucepan, simmer stock and rice until rice is very tender, about 30 minutes. Transfer mixture to a blender and purée until smooth. Whisk eggs together in a medium bowl. Gradually whisk in hot stock mixture. Return mixture to saucepan and cook over medium heat, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon, until heated through, at least 180 degrees, but not boiling; remove from heat.

Strain soup into a bowl using a fine-mesh sieve. Stir in lemon juice. Refrigerate until cold (can be made up to 2 days ahead). Before serving, stir in green onion and dill; salt and pepper to taste. Makes 4 servings.

Lemon Orzo

With the flavor of lemon, this side dish made with classic Greek pasta is very simple to make.

1 cup orzo

2 Tbsps. minced shallots

1 Tbsp. lemon zest

1 Tbsp. lemon juice

2 Tbsps. olive oil

Salt and pepper to taste 

Cook orzo in boiling, salted water according to package directions. Toss with remaining ingredients and serve immediately. Makes 4 servings.

Broiled Lemon and              Herb Tilapia

Tilapia fillets are baked with a topping mixture made with lemon, butter, parsley, chopped green onions, and seasonings.

1 lemon, zested and juiced

1 lemon, sliced for garnish

4 Tbsps. butter, softened

1 Tbsp. freshly chopped parsley

1/4 cup chopped green onions (with tops)

Salt and pepper to taste

Smoked paprika

4 tilapia fillets (about 6 oz. each)

Set oven rack about 6-8 inches from broiler. Season fish with salt, pepper and paprika, both sides. In a small bowl add lemon zest, lemon juice, softened butter, parsley and green onions. Spray broiler pan or cookie sheet with non-stick cooking spray and place fillets on pan. Top each fillet with the butter mixture. Broil for 5-6 minutes or until fish flakes easily with a fork. Garnish with sliced lemons. Makes 4 servings.

Lemon Blueberry Cobbler

2 cups fresh or frozen blueberries

1 tsp. freshly grated lemon zest

1/3 cup sugar

1 Tbsp. fresh lemon juice

1 tsp. cornstarch

2/3 cup all-purpose flour

1 tsp. baking powder

3/4 tsp. ground cardamom

1/2 cup heavy cream

Preheat oven to 400 degrees and butter an 8-inch (1-1/2 qt.) glass pie plate. In a bowl, toss together berries, zest, sugar, lemon juice and cornstarch until combined well; transfer to pie plate.

 In another bowl, sift together flour, baking powder, cardamom and a pinch salt. Add cream and stir until mixture just forms a dough. Drop dough in 5 mounds on blueberry mixture and bake in middle of oven until biscuits are golden and cooked through, about 25 minutes.