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In the Kitchen with ... Lemons and Memories
updated: Jan 30, 2010, 8:51 AM
By Leah Etling
I had started to write this column about cooking with lemons the night I learned that my grandmother had passed away. We were very close, so I abandoned what I was doing to grieve and remember her.
My grandmother (my father's mother) had many talents, (Which you can read about here) but cooking was not one that would go on the list. She did, however, make a mean cinnamon toast and a mouth-watering root beer float. My brother remembers how she used to cut peanut butter and jelly sandwiches into the shapes of cars for him after school. There were raisins for hubcaps.
She let us eat Cap'n Crunch cereal, which we didn't get at home because it was too sugary. Cool whip was another thing that was only in her refrigerator… one question I never asked was why she bought cool whip over whipped cream. And at holidays there was always a tub of sliver-thin Moravian cookies jetting to California all the way from Winston-Salem, North Carolina.
One food lesson she taught me was never let anything to go waste. Backyard apples from her fruit tree were sliced and dried on wire racks inside an old station wagon out in the backyard. The rest of the apples were made into applesauce and frozen. I can't look at a "Hello my name is …" tag to this day without cracking up, because we used those tags, leftover from her political events, to label the applesauce Tupperware. "HELLO, my name is, APPLESAUCE."
As kids, my brother loved eating the figs off another tree in her backyard. I hated figs, but loved the blackberries, but those bushes didn't last forever in our California climate … so she found another friend who grew raspberries, and took us there to pick them. We were encouraged to be outside and run around as much as possible. I know it was her desire that the weight issues from her life would never be a part of ours.
When I came back to this column, I knew that she wouldn't want me to let the lemon recipes I'd made be wasted, so they're merely presented in a different form than I had planned. A lot of local lemon trees are covered with ripe fruit this year, so here are some ideas about what to do with them. Even though she never had a lemon tree, I'm sure my grandmother would have agreed.
The original idea for the lemon-cooking column was a directive on high from Ed, who apparently likes a little zest in his diet.
I'm not a big fan of the TV cooking show host Rachel Ray - in fact I've never watched her show, but this lemon chicken recipe of her's was actually very good.
Here's a link to the Food Network site, although the full recipe appears below.
• 1 1/2 pounds chicken breast or chicken tenders, cut into chunks
• 1/4 cup flour
• Sea salt
• 2 tablespoons wok or vegetable oil
• 1 tablespoon rice wine vinegar
• 1/2 cup chicken broth
• 8 ounces (1 cup) prepared lemon curd (find it in the jam/jelly section)
• 1/4 cup hot water
• 1 lemon, zested
• 2-3 finely chopped green onion tops
Coat the chunked chicken lightly in flour, seasoned with a little salt. Heat a large skillet or a wok-shaped nonstick pan over high heat. Stir-fry chicken until golden, 3 or 4 minutes. Remove chicken from the pan and return pan to heat. Reduce heat to medium.
Add rice wine vinegar to the pan and let it evaporate. Add stock or broth. Thin curd by stirring in a little hot water. Add curd to broth and whisk to combine. Add chicken back to the pan and simmer for 1 to 2 minutes to thicken sauce and finish cooking chicken pieces through. Remove the pan from heat, add the scallions or chives and zest, and toss chicken pieces well to combine zest and scallions or chives evenly throughout the sauce. Serve with rice. You'll see in the photo that I also added some shelled edamame on the side.
This next lemon recipe, for lemon bars, has been taste-tested, and the consensus reached that it, "needs to be more lemony".
Anyone got a great way to do that? Or a stellar lemon bar recipe to share?
1 cup flour
½ cup butter
¼ cup powdered sugar
1 cup granulated sugar
2 teaspoons grated lemon peel
2 tablespoons lemon juice
½ teaspoon baking powder
¼ teaspoon salt
Powdered sugar to dust top
Heat oven to 350ºF.
Mix flour, butter and powdered sugar. Press in ungreased square pan, 8x8x2 or 9x9x2 inches, building up 1/2-inch edges.
Bake crust 20 minutes.
Beat granulated sugar, lemon peel, lemon juice, baking powder, salt and eggs with electric mixer on high speed about 3 minutes or until light and fluffy. Pour over hot crust.
Bake 25 to 30 minutes or until no indentation remains when touched lightly in center. Cool; dust with powdered sugar. Cut into about 1 1/2-inch squares.
Comments in order of when they were received | (reverse order)
2010-01-30 10:02 AM
What a lovely tribute to your grandmother. She sounds like a wonderful woman.
Generally speaking to add more lemon flavor to a recipe, you add more lemon zest.
2010-01-30 10:18 AM
Thanks! What a pretty plate, too.
2010-01-31 09:32 AM
Add more fresh lemon juice. Meyer lemons are the best in lemon bars!
2010-01-31 10:04 AM
Very thoughtful column about your grandmother, Leah...thank you for sharing some of her love and humor with us.
Mmm, my father was from W-S, so we grew up with a Moravian baking influence and those cookies are part of the holidays for our family, too...so thin, so addicting! It's well worth the time to take a tour at Mrs. Hanes cookie bakery in Clemmons, NC (right next door to W-S) just to see the women rolling the dough out paper-thin by hand...these are also the best of the best of Moravian cookies that I've ever tasted anywhere.
As for the lemon bars, go for the gusto with lots more lemon zest and juice...try this no-fail recipe from The Barefoot Contessa:
For the crust:
1/2 pound unsalted butter, at room temperature 1/2 cup granulated sugar 2 cups flour 1/8 teaspoon kosher salt
For the filling:
6 extra-large eggs at room temperature 3 cups granulated sugar 2 tablespoons grated lemon zest (4 to 6 lemons) 1 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice 1 cup flour Confectioners' sugar, for dusting
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
For the crust, cream the butter and sugar until light in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Combine the flour and salt and, with the mixer on low, add to the butter until just mixed. Dump the dough onto a well-floured board and gather into a ball. Flatten the dough with floured hands and press it into a 9 by 13 by 2-inch baking sheet, building up a 1/2-inch edge on all sides. Chill.
Bake the crust for 15 to 20 minutes, until very lightly browned. Let cool on a wire rack. Leave the oven on.
For the filling, whisk together the eggs, sugar, lemon zest, lemon juice, and flour. Pour over the crust and bake for 30 to 35 minutes, until the filling is set. Let cool to room temperature.... [ more ]
2010-02-22 09:14 AM
for more intense lemon flavor, use zest, and cut down a bit on the sugar.
2010-02-22 09:19 AM
and no wonder that lemon chicken recipe was tasty--a whole CUP of lemon curd (with all that butter and eggs) Wow! that's a special occasion dish, for sure.
Sometimes I add a T or so of lemon curd to rice pudding, along with some zest.
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