When life hands you lemons…

…thank your lucky stars she did, and stop waiting for a hand out!  If your current lemon intake is limited to a slice in your water or a wedge with your fish, get yourself to the grocery store and stock up.  Go ahead, live dangerously: buy a bag of eight or ten.  You won’t be sorry.  I promise.

Last week, as I flew home from Europe with my mother, the poor thing came down with a bad cold.  Upon arrival in Seattle, I chugged Emergen-C, guzzled ginger tea, and steam showered, hoping for the best.  This morning (3 days later) I smugly declared myself one deft little cold-preventing ninja.  And this afternoon, at 4:00, quite literally out of nowhere, my nose twitched involuntarily into a tingly fit, many sneezes burst forth, and I made a mad dash for the Kleenex.  That, friends, is where smugness will get you. 

Well, bring it, cold, bring it.  I will squeeze you like a lemon, which, you can be sure, is the first thing I reached for.  And here is what I made.  I give you “Lemon Cleanse”, a real treasure, adapted from Lemon Zest (a cookbook wholeheartedly devoted to recipes featuring lemons—yes, it really is too good to be true, as it seems to be out of print and only available via the library).  Now don’t go waiting for a sick day to drink Lemon Cleanse.  In fact, until today, I haven’t had a cold since I discovered it.  Drink it often, drink it liberally.  I dubbed it Lemon Cleanse because it makes me feel clean and fresh when I drink it.  And you know, I read that Hollywood stars drink this with a splash of apple cider vinegar to flush out toxins and shed pounds quickly. 

Lemon Cleanse

Heat some water until it is hot, but not boiling.  In a glass, squeeze the juice of one lemon, add a few slices of lemon, a dollop of honey, and a sprinkle of cinnamon.  Pour the hot water into the glass and stir well.  Sip slowly or chug with abandon and come back later to thank me for this gem of a comfort drink. 

Another dish you really do need to make is “Chicken with Two Lemons”.  You have no excuse not to make it, because all you need is: (1) a chicken, and (2) two lemons.  Plus, it’s really fun to be smugly sure that such a simple dish can’t be that good.  And then you eat it and it’s so delicious and you don’t understand how it’s possible.  No, you didn’t get a supreme specimen of a bird.  It’s the lemons.  This comes courtesy of the magnificent Marcella Hazan, via “Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking”. 

Chicken With Two Lemons

Roll the lemons on the counter to soften and release juices.  With a thick toothpick, deeply pierce the lemons in about 20 spots on each lemon.  Rinse a whole 3-4 pound chicken and salt and pepper it.  Put the two lemons into the cavity of the chicken and tie the chickens legs together with butcher’s twine.  Start it breast-down and cook at 350 for 30 minutes.  Then give it a flip and cook for another 30 minutes.  Increase the heat to 400 and cook for 20 minutes more.  (You may need to cook it longer depending on the size of your bird; each pound requires an additional 20-25 minutes cooking time.)

It really will be the juiciest, best tasting chicken you’ve ever had. 

So where does my deep fondness for lemons come from?  I imagine France is the culprit, as it is for so many other obsessions, culinary and otherwise.  In fact, I think I would have to credit the lemon festival in Menton for first giving me the idea that copious citrus fruit consumption is the best way to go.  It’s hard not to elevate lemons in your subconscious after seeing this:

Yes, that’s right.  You are looking at a (kinda) full-scale replication of the Santa Maria, except al limone.  The whole town was filled with these huge constructions made completely from citrus fruit.  (EmLo, are you reading?  Wasn’t Menton wonderful?) 

You ought to make lemon curd, and so many other deliciously lemony things too, but oh boy, am I going to make myself proud and save that for another post.  Until then, squeeze lemon into anything and everything you can—drinks, yogurts, pastas, sauces, stews.  It makes almost anything taste better, brightening flavors with its smiling acidity.

I leave you with this image from the lemon festival as a parting gift:

Kerchoo!  And goodnight.  I’m off to have one more Lemon Cleanse before turning in.

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One response to “When life hands you lemons…

  1. ahh i just came across your blog and saw your menton post! such good memories – makes me long for france again and my ole’ travel companion. hope the pacific NW is treating you well!

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