Suzanne Goin made me eat salad dressing straight out of the bowl, with a spoon. Sort of.
As I have mentioned before, I’m sitting on a handsome crop of Meyer lemons these days and continue to look for interesting ways to use them. I eagerly turned to Goin’s beautiful cookbook, Sunday Suppers at Lucques, for inspiration. The salad that follows caught my eye immediately. Beautiful and seasonal, it earned extra points with me for using up two lemons at a time. I didn’t expect to fall so madly in love with the Meyer lemon cream that dresses the Belgian endive spears.
But how could I not? Like many of Goin’s recipes, it strikes a lovely balance between simple and innovative. It begins with a basic lemon vinaigrette, enhanced with the oniony, garlicky hum of a diced shallot, and then evolves into tangy, silken bliss with a few tablespoons of cream. In a pinch, I found it also works to substitute a mixture of 2 tablespoons sour cream and 2 tablespoons water for the cream if, like me, you usually try to keep heavy cream off your property lest you end up eating it for second breakfast.
Though I don’t typically include restaurant reviews here in The Salty Spoon, I must mention that I recently enjoyed one of the Sunday Supper menus at Lucques and was blown away. If you find yourself hungry in LA on a Sunday evening, go. I was most impressed with the entire operation - lovely ambiance, attentive staff, and exceptional food. I’m aching to go back again, both for the regular menu and for another Sunday Supper. There is something incredibly appealing to me about a set menu from a chef I admire. It’s much more intimate than a full menu, a closer conversation between you and the chef where you listen for insights about the chef’s likes and dislikes with respect to the available ingredients. Goin is steadfastly committed to using seasonal offerings in the best way, and her Sunday menus showcase that approach with aplomb.
But if it is Tuesday and you are hungry for something elegant, you can join me in turning to this beautiful cookbook and finding something marvelous to do with a lemon or two. I’ve made a few adjustments. The original recipe calls for fava beans, which I have been sadly unable to find over the past few weeks. I have reduced the yield of the salad from four servings to two, but the proportions for the dressing are intact. Here’s why: in order to reach the proper consistency with your vinaigrette, it helps to really give it a hearty run with the whisk. It’s a bit difficult to get the everything moving in the bowl the way you want with a half-quantity of lemon juice and olive oil. However, you will have no trouble coming up with alternative uses for the leftover dressing. It’s stupendous on fish, pasta, etc., if you have the discipline to put it away in the refrigerator. If you are like me and find yourself gulping it down with a spoon instead of doing the dishes, well, I won’t tell.
(Keep reading Endive Salad with Meyer Lemon Cream…)
After 30 years of utter nonchalance on the matter, I am suddenly interested in gardening. It started with a little lemon tree. A dwarf Meyer lemon tree that arrived one misty morning in February groaning under the weight of two dozen ripe lemons.
The lemon tree was part of a patio redesign project we just finished. After two and a half years in the house, it seemed like a fine time to actually do something more substantial with the front patio than the occasional sidelong glance while muttering “we oughta get a table or something…” The front patio project spilled into the side yard and then to the back patio; after next weekend, we’ll have it all planted and ready for a good growing season. There are tomatoes. There are fuschias. There is a potted hedge of blossom-studded rosemary. The camelias and azaleas and Japanese maples are on their merry way. I can’t wait.
Back to that tree. After the sixth day of making John crazy with an endless chorus of “my lemon has a first name, it’s M-E-Y-E-R, my lemon has a second name, it’s M-E-Y-E-R!” (thank you, Derek, for gracing me with this horrible earworm), I sobered up and faced the inevitable question peeking in my patio door: what the hell do we do with all these lemons?
It wasn’t so difficult. Their thin, supple skin is most conducive to zesting, while their (relatively) mild acidity makes the flesh and juice a handsome complement to sauces, dressings, relishes, and, in a pinch, water. I’m still working out the proportions for a lemon sage vinaigrette we’ve been enjoying mightily on all things green and leafy. In the meantime, I’m tremendously excited to share this cookie with you.
If you haven’t ever tried rosemary in your baked goods, you are missing out. I find it brings a big, round flavor to sweet things while tempering the pointedness of the sugar. This is the cookie for people who, inexplicably, roam in search of desserts on the low end of the sweetness spectrum. The proportions of lemon zest and rosemary are a starting point. Make a batch and see how they strike you, and increase as you see fit to suit your taste. The rosemary’s strength will surprise you, so don’t haul off and mix in half a cup. Start small and work up from there.
We’ve been enjoying these cookies without any on them, but they would be lovely with a light buttercream or sandwiched together around a bit of lemon curd.
If you can’t find Meyer lemons in your area, regular lemons will work fine. Look for the ripest ones you can get your hands on: thin skins, bright yellow, and fat little bodies. Shortly before our tree arrived, I found a bounty of Meyers at Costco. While picking my carton, an elderly woman next to me pondered the label, unconvinced that they were worth a try. I piped up, noting that the flesh was sweeter than a traditional lemon and that the peel was also wonderful. “They’re wonderful with tequila?” she exclaimed, having misheard my comment about the peel. I started to correct her, but decided against it when I saw how her eyes sparkled at the idea. “Yep,” I said, “great with tequila.” That sold it; into her cart they went.
(Keep reading Lemon Rosemary Cookies…)