I do very much enjoy a glass of fresh-squeezed lemonade on a hot summer day – homemade and honey sweetened, of course. I’m very particular about my beverages, and most lemonades, I find, are incredibly sweet – way too intense for my palate. I actually prefer the fresh citrus tang of limeade, with a hint of sparking fizz added to the mix for fun and bubbles!
The flavors and variations of lemonade aside, my words are provoked by the aid of lemon in the culinary repertoire more than anything else.
The fleshy citrusy fruit, intensely sour at times, but also pleasantly sweet with favorite varieties (Meyer Lemons), is amazingly versatile in both sweet and savory combinations. It seems that a touch of lemon juice is able to enhance just about any recipe or concoction around. The lemon is almost, well…magic.
- The high content of vitamin C, or ascorbic acid, in the fruit is often used to prevent the discoloring of the flesh of fruits and vegetables that oxidize quickly when exposed to the oxygen in the air. When preparing visually appealing meals, this is a fantastic trick – adding lemon juice just as the produce is reaching perfection in the cooking process (and, of course, adds a refreshing flavor)!
Due to the high acidity – well, it’s complicated, but lemons actually work to alkalinize the system – the magic fruit creates a variety of wonderful results ~
- Lemon juice can be used to tenderize meat or it can be used as a substitution for vinegar in dressings.
- As the lemon juice enhances the flavor of food, fresh juice may be used as a method of cutting down on the amount of added salt in a dish.
- For fluffier rice, (even cauliflower “rice,” folks) add lemon juice to the cooking water.
- Lemon zest contains all the the valuable fruit “oil” and imparts fantastic flavor without the acidity of the juice, or the extra liquid, which is often times unwanted. The zest also creates a gorgeous garnish.
- When preparing hardboiled eggs, before you drop the eggs into the boiling water, try brushing some lemon juice over the shells to prevent them from cracking while they cook. While you’re at it, if you drop a teaspoon of lemon juice into the water, the eggs will be much easier to peel once you’re ready to eat them. Don’t worry about the juice affecting taste of the eggs – as long as you don’t go overboard, you shouldn’t notice it at all.
- To transform limp greens to their previous more palatable state, simply squeeze a halved lemon into a bowl of cold (but not freezing) water. Then, refrigerate the lettuce in the bowl for about an hour, dry it off, and presto! Like magic, your lettuce is revitalized and ready to be the star ingredient in a fresh, crisp salad.
- The composition of lemon juice also greatly aids in the digestion of heavy, fatty foods with enhanced bile production and a cleansing effect on the gallbladder.
Finally, my very favorite time to call upon the “aid” of a lemon in the kitchen is when it comes to the complexity and flavor of herbs and spices. The fresh citrusy aroma adds depth to what the palate senses when an intricately seasoned dish – such as something from India or Morocco – comes into play, one squeeze of the juiced fruit over a spice medley, alters the flavor intensity entirely. In an instant, the taste shifts from an amalgamation on the tongue to a bold host for each individual spice flavor on a very surprising level. A simple curry becomes a combination of cumin, coriander, turmeric, mustard, ginger, cloves, and even cinnamon. ALL the flavors are sensed separately. This is absolutely fascinating…
Introduce this magical phenomenon to your palate for a fantastically pleasant experience.
I sense you smiling already.
In any case, I deeply delight in the “aid” and flavor capabilities of the fleshy citrus fruit.