Although summertime signals the highest demand for lemons (ice-cold lemonade, anyone?), these pucker-up fruits are available year-round and make a wonderfully sunny addition to winter, spring, and fall dishes, too. Lemons boast one of nature’s highest vitamin C concentrations and an unmistakable tang.
“There’s really nothing comparable to fresh lemon,” says Jill Davie, a Los Angeles–based chef. “It’s one of the most popular flavors to play with because it zips up so many foods.”
According to Davie, lemons’ uses go on and on. “Never throw away a lemon!” she says. “If you don’t need the juice right away, squeeze it and freeze it. You can also grate the zest and freeze it in a plastic freezer bag for later use. And when you’re really done with it, rub the pulp on your fingernails to brighten and strengthen them; then grind the peels in your garbage disposal to freshen it up.” Put the squeeze on lemons with these recipes.
Lemon-Shallot Sauce with Roasted Vegetables
The rich sauce tastes like hollandaise—without the butter! Use it to dress up poached eggs or broiled fish, too. View recipe.
Lemon-Braised Chicken with Almonds and Cranberries
Braising is a slow-cooking method that uses liquid and covered heat to keep moisture in the meat. Use a vegetable peeler to remove lemon peel in very thin strips, leaving the bitter white pith behind. Serve this dish alongside Israeli couscous made with a mix of water and fresh lemon juice. View recipe.
Lemon-Basil Dressing on Arugula and Goat Cheese Salad
This simple and deliciously fresh dressing makes more than you’ll need; it keeps for at least a week in the fridge. If you like, make your own goat cheese; you can find directions at deliciousliving.com. View recipe.
Warm Lemon-Lavender Cakes
Delicate in flavor but with a texture similar to bread pudding, these individual cakes may be dressed up with any fresh fruit, fruit sauce, or even plain whipped cream. If you prefer, substitute fresh or frozen strawberries for the cranberries in the sauce; reduce the sugar slightly. View recipe.
Lemon Mint Tea
A light, comforting drink that’s perfect after a meal or just before bed. View recipe.
Lemon Ginger Tea
Sweet, strong, and hot, this spicy tea is perfect for nursing a cold or to warm up on a chilly day. Remove the yellow lemon peel (leave the white pith) with a vegetable peeler. The ginger slices make a nice, medicinal treat, but you can discard before serving if you prefer. View recipe.
How to pick and juice a lemon; more ways to use lemons
How to pick a lemon
Ripe lemons continue to cure once picked. choose small, heavy fruits with a tinge of green on the end; these will last three to four weeks longer than fully yellow lemons
How to juice a lemon
To extract the most juice, roll room-temperature lemons on a hard counter before squeezing.
More ways to use lemons
Add a squeeze of lemon juice to rice or pasta water while cooking to prevent stickiness; add to white vegetables, such as potatoes or cauliflower, to intensify whiteness.
Instead of salt or butter, try a squeeze of lemon juice on salads, steamed vegetables, soups, and stews.
Remove lemon peel with a vegetable peeler (leave bitter white pith behind). Spread on a baking sheet and cook in a 170-degree oven until dry. Put in a peppermill and grind; use as a salt replacement. Or blend with red peppercorns, bay leaves, and a little salt for a low-sodium alternative.
In a spice grinder or food processor, blend dry peels with granulated sugar to a fine powder. Sprinkle over fresh-fruit salads, cocktails, cereal, or French toast.
For a lemon vinaigrette, combine one part lemon juice and zest with three parts rosemary-infused olive oil, plus chopped shallot, Dijon mustard, and freshly ground pepper; blend until emulsified.
Drop tiny wedges of fresh lemon into ice-cube trays; fill with water and freeze. Then add to lemonade or iced tea.
Remove fish, garlic, or onion odor from your fingers by rubbing with lemon juice.