It must be global warming but my precious lemon tree is confused. So confused, in fact, that, not only does it produce lemons all year around but, this past Summer, the output has been prodigious.
In the ten years I have lived in this house, I have seen the tree, and all the other trees and plants I haven’t killed, grow exponentially. Even “black thumb” gardeners like me can have their moment of glory in Southern California, where everything that can stand some serious sun grows with not much effort.
Over the years, we have let go of the ambitious, and water guzzling, planting schemes of the previous owners, who went so far as to install an electric fence to keep the deer out, promptly disabled upon moving in.
The vegetable patch is sadly gone: I was most definitely not up to the task, except for tomatoes and strawberries that get replanted seasonally. Trying to keep the roses in the face of hungry deer was pointless and many of the flowers that, in good conscience, we shouldn’t be watering, have been replaced by succulents and cacti which thrive despite my benign neglect.
But I am digressing. Back to the lemon tree or, rather, the biggest of the three (one is a Meyer) that has been spewing giant and sweet lemons all Summer long. So far, I have made enough lemonade to open a region-wide chain of stands; lemon juice has replaced vinegar in most salads; enough lemon curd that I don’t want to see any for a good long while; and lemons are now saving me the effort of buying the rinse aid for the dishwasher – I stick half a (used) lemon in one of the racks and dishes and glasses sparkle. My mother came up with that.
My sister made me repeat the lemon and rosemary chicken twice, which is made with quickly preserved lemons, and I suppose I could start canning, but involved DIY projects are not my thing. And trying to gift lemons away to friends and neighbors is a lost cause because everyone with a yard has some citrus or other.
When I came across this recipe a while ago in the New York Times I was intrigued. It sat around for weeks, until I decided to make it for lunch, just for me, during a blissful weekend spent in solitude at my house. It’s (obviously) tart and tangy but surprisingly delicious. My very organic lemons are pretty sweet so I blanched them only once, but if you are using a supermarket variety I would suggest you repeat the blanching step at least twice, to make sure all the bitterness has gone. That is the most time-consuming part of the recipe: all of 6 minutes.
And please, send over any interesting lemon recipes (or uses for lemons) that I might have overlooked and will help me in trimming this bounty!
RECIPE – serves 2/3 people
2 large lemons (or 3 small ones)
1/2 pound of pasta
2 or 3 T olive oil
Pinch of sugar
Chili flakes to taste
1/2 C Parmesan cheese, grated
Salt and pepper
- Zest one lemon and set aside the zest. Cut off the ends of the other lemon and divide it in quarters. Remove the seeds. Slice each quarter crosswise into thin triangles.
- Put a small pot of water to boil. When boiling, drop the lemon slices in and let cook for 2 minutes. Remove with a slotted spoon and dry with paper towels. If repeating this step, change the water.
- Cook the pasta in plenty of salted water. Drain but keep about 1/4 cup of the water.
- In a skillet, heat 1 T of the olive oil over high heat. Add the lemon slices, sugar and a bit of salt and let cook until the lemons are caramelized and browning at the edges. Add the chili flakes and the lemon zest. Mix and cook for a minute more. Whisk in the pasta water.
- Add the pasta to the skillet, together with the Parmesan and toss until the pasta is evenly coated and the cheese has melted. Taste and add more salt and black pepper. Drizzle the remaining olive oil and serve immediately.