Ingredient SpotLight

Lemons say "Spring" to me. Whether they are piled into a bowl on the kitchen counter or squeezed onto steamed fish, they bring a bright, airy feel to the party. They also pack a nutritional punch. At a mere 30 calories, you average medium-sized lemon also contains almost 3 grams of fiber and 55 mg of vitamin C ... all without any fat or cholesterol. And when it comes to flavor, there are few ingredients that can compare.

When choosing lemons, pick fruit that seems heavy for its size with minimal marks or blemishes, especially if you will be using the skin for zesting. Lemons can be stored for several days if unwrapped and in the refrigerator. To get the most juice from a lemon, roll it on a counter or microwave it for about 30 seconds prior to cutting and squeezing.

While known to be quite sour, there are actually sweet varieties of lemons, although they are almost exclusively the domain of home gardeners. The more acidic commercial varieties are picked six or more times a year, with one tree yielding about 1500 lemons a year. Now that's a lot of lemons! And you know what they say? If you've got lemons, make ...

Lemonade

This lemonade doesn't suffer little sugar crystals forming at the bottom of the pitcher. Making the sugar syrup in advance is well worth your time and if you really make a lot of lemonade, you can make large batches to keep on hand for the future.
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 cup sugar
  • Juice from 6 lemons
  • 4 cups cold water

Blend the one cup of water and one cup of sugar well in a small saucepan. Bring the mixture to a boil, stirring frequently, until the sugar dissolves completely. Allow the syrup to cool in the refrigerator.

Mix the syrup well with the juice from six lemons and stir well. Add four cups of cold water and mix. Pour the lemonade into a thermos or large jug, adding thin lemon slices if you'd like.

  • Yields: 6 servings
  • Preparation Time: 10 minutes plus chilling time

Lemon Baked Fish

Elegant dining doesn't get much easier than this. This dish is perfect for quick weekday entertaining. On the weekends in summer, I put everything together in a heavy duty aluminum pouch and grill it instead!
  • 1 1/2 pounds white fish
  • 1 teaspoon grated lemon rind
  • 1/4 teaspoon dried basil
  • 3 teaspoons butter
  • 4 teaspoons lemon juice
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Heat oven to 450°F.

Place the fish in an oven-proof dish. Blend together all of the ingredients and pour over the fish. Cover the dish with foil and bake for 20-25 minutes or until the fish flakes easily when tested with a fork.

  • Yields: 4 servings
  • Preparation Time: 30 minutes

Lemon Meringue Pie

There's something special about this classic pie with its mound of meringue spread over its tangy filling. Make sure you add the meringue when the filling's still warm to avoid excess "weeping" ... those little drops that form on the top.
  • 1 1/4 cups sugar
  • 1/2 cup flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 1/2 cups water
  • 3 eggs -- separated
  • Zest from 1 medium lemon
  • Juice from 1 1/2 medium lemons
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 1 prepared 9-inch pie crust

Preheat the oven to 350°F.

Combine the sugar, flour, salt and water in a heavy saucepan. Stir the mixture constantly over medium-high heat until the mixture boils. Boil, stirring constantly and vigorously, for 1 minute. Remove the mixture from the heat.

Slightly beat the egg yolks in a bowl with a fork. Temper the mixture by mixing half of the boiled mixture with the egg yolks. Then put the egg yolk mixture back into the pan with the boiled ingredients, and cook for 1 more minute, stirring constantly. Remove the mixture from the heat, and add the butter. Add the lemon zest and lemon juice. Stir to mix thoroughly.

Pour the lemon mixture into the prepared 9-inch pie crust and top with the meringue (recipe below), spreading the meringue to the edges of the pastry. Bake in a 350°F oven for 12 to 15 minutes or until nicely browned.

Meringue
  • 3 egg whites -- at room temperature
  • 6 tablespoons sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar

Beat the egg whites at high speed with an electric mixer until soft peaks form. With the mixer running, add the cream of tartar, then gradually add the sugar, a tablespoon at a time, and beat the mixture until stiff peaks form. Beat in the vanilla.

Be sure to spread the meringue to the pastry edges when spreading it on your pie. To minimize "weeping", spread the meringue on the pie filling while the filling is hot. Also, remember that meringue pies cut better with a wet knife blade.

  • Yields: 6-8 servings
  • Preparation Time: 30 minutes

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