I’ve decided we’re going to start something new over here at the food blog. Each week, I’m going to share a unique or overlooked ingredient with you along with some info and a recipe or two. Why? Because I can, and also because each time I go to a place like an asian grocery store, or Granville island market, I like to buy something I have never of or tried before. Even for someone who’s been cooking for a while, you will never run out of things to try. Sure, some have been awesome discoveries, and some brutally bad (I once bought a pound of lamb brains after seeing someone deep fry and eat them on TV), but hey, try before you judge right?
Without further adieu, here is this week’s unique ingredient: The Meyer Lemon
So what? It looks like a regular lemon! Maybe, but it’s not a regular lemon at all, in fact it’s a rare citrus that is a combination of a regular lemon with a sweet mandarin, originating from China and recently becoming popular in Western culture after being used by some very famous chefs.
It has a balanced tang and sweetness that make it perfect for desserts, dressings, and other applications. The most famous chef to make use of meyer lemons is Charlie Trotter, who used these almost exclusively in place of regular lemons in his recipe collections.
Are they expensive? Well, in a word, yeah. Buying some meyer lemons will cost you about 3x what buying regular lemons will cost. It’s not outrageous considering they are only grown in a couple areas of the US, but enough to make you want to think about what you want to do with these little babies before you buy. So fear not, here’s a couple recipes that will benefit from the unique sweet and citrus flavour of the Meyer lemons, and ones that will help you recognize the flavour difference from using regular lemons:
Meyer Lemon Risotto (my personal favorite)
6 cups chicken stock or canned low-sodium broth
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 medium onion, finely chopped, about 1 to 1-1/2 cups
1 tender inner celery rib, finely chopped, plus 1/4 cup chopped leaves
Salt and freshly ground pepper
1 garlic clove, minced
1 1/2 cups arborio rice (10 ounces)
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese, plus more for serving
2 tablespoons finely grated Meyer lemon zest
2 tablespoons fresh Meyer lemon juice
1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons julienned basil leaves
1/2 cup porcini mushrooms (optional)
In a medium sauce pan, bring the stock to a boil. In a separate large sauce pan, melt the butter and saute the onions, garlic, and celery until soft. Add in the rice and stir to coat with the butter, continue cooking for 2-3 minutes. Add the hot stock to the rice and vegetables, stirring constantly and waiting until each cup is absorbed before adding the next. Continue stirring and ladelling stock for approx. 15-20 minutes or until rice is cooked through, and the mixture is thick and creamy.
Add in the meyer lemon juice and zest, the basil, the parmesan cheese and the mushrooms. Stir and simmer for 2 minutes and then serve in bowls, garnishing with extra parmesan cheese.
And now, for a cocktail to wash it all down:
Meyer Lemon Martini
1.5 oz. Lemon Vodka or premium regular vodka
1/2 oz. cointreau
1 oz simple syrup (equal parts sugar and water)
Juice from 1 meyer lemon
Sugar for glass rim garnish
Meyer Lemon slice for garnish
Muddle all the ingredients, including rind, in a shaker. Add in the ice and shake until blended. Strain into a sugar-rimmed martini glass and garnish with a meyer lemon slice.
WHERE TO BUY?
Granville Island Market sells them at one of the asian specialty vendors (the one who sells the hard to find peppers and fresh wasabi). They are individually priced but average about $1.50 per lemon.