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Lemons? Sweet!

Times Staff Writer

IF Cezanne had lived not in France but in Southern California, his still lifes would have overflowed with Meyer lemons. Plump, smooth-skinned, colored an unmistakable dark yellow -- canary yellow, the color of egg yolks or the sun at noon -- they’re sweeter than other lemons, with an intoxicating aroma that has hints of honey and thyme.

Now is the perfect time to revel in them, as the harvest peaks and farmers market stalls, produce aisles and, if you’re lucky, backyard trees are loaded with fruit. A cross between a lemon and a sweet orange, imported to the U.S. from China exactly 100 years ago by the man whose name they bear, the Meyer lemon is a furiously addictive fruit.

With sweeter juice, a thinner peel, less acid and a more floral scent (and taste) than other lemon varieties, Meyers are as much fun to cook with as they would be to paint.

In fact, we’re counting the ways. High on the list are a few fantastic recipes. Slide slices of Meyer lemons under the skin of a pair of Cornish game hens, strew the roasting pan with more, then toss in some fennel and olives. Or try chef Marcus Samuelsson’s method of quick-preserving citrus peels and use the result -- tart and salty and utterly lemony -- in a fantastically colorful dish of spicy piri piri shrimp and black rice. On the sweet side, make a Meyer lemon ice cream, loading the custard with peel as well as juice -- and a hint of cardamom, the spicy notes bringing out the floral depth of the Meyer’s flavor. (This recipe is inspired by longtime Chez Panisse pastry chef Lindsey Shere, one of the first to put Meyer lemons on the culinary map.)

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There are probably more things -- in heaven, on Earth, in citrus groves -- that you can do with these yellow beauties than we can dream of. But we can try.

Here are the top 100 things to do with a Meyer lemon.--

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100 THINGS TO DO WITH A MEYER LEMON

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1. Make Meyer lemonade.

2. Make roasted Cornish game hens with Meyer lemons, olives and fennel (see recipe).

3. Make shrimp piri piri with black rice and chef Marcus Samuelsson’s “quick-preserved” Meyer lemons (see recipe).

4. Make Meyer lemon-cardamom ice cream (see recipe).

5. Assemble sandwiches of thinly sliced lemons, smoked salmon and sour cream on pumpernickel bread.

6. Candy the peel, dusting with superfine sugar.

7. To a risotto made with mascarpone and Parmesan, add some grated Meyer lemon peel.

8. Take a cue from Quinn Hatfield of Hatfield’s in Los Angeles and pour yourself a lemon gimlet (Meyer lemon juice and zest, soda water and Meyer lemon simple syrup).

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9. Rub a Meyer lemon peel around the rim of a demitasse of espresso.

10. Adapt Claudia Roden’s recipe for orange-almond cake (in “The New Book of Middle Eastern Food,” the cover of which features a bowl of Meyer lemons) by using two large Meyer lemons instead of oranges (see the recipe at latimesblogs.latimes.com/dailydish).

11. If you don’t mind delayed gratification, make classic preserved lemons (different from chef Samuelsson’s because the lemons are preserved slowly over weeks instead of quickly blanched and cooked) by filling a Mason jar with quartered Meyer lemons, one-fourth cup of kosher salt and enough lemon juice to cover, and letting them sit in your refrigerator for three weeks. Or, for extra flavor, throw some spices into the jar too: a bay leaf, a cinnamon stick, some black peppercorns, a dried Thai chile, a cardamom pod.

12. Grate Meyer lemon peel into a bowlful of Chantilly cream.

13. Arrange thin slices of Meyer lemons on a pizza crust topped with goat cheese, rosemary and Picholine olives.

14. Make Meyer lemon curd.

15. Try your hand at individual Meyer lemon frozen souffles.

16. Infuse your favorite olive oil with Meyer lemon peel: Warm a cup of olive oil and the peel from 2 lemons over very low heat for 15 minutes, then allow to cool for half an hour. Strain and pour into an antique stoppered bottle.

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17. For a Meyer lemon confit, cook slices of lemons in olive oil over very low heat for an hour; coarsely chop, and add to a salad of market greens, goat cheese and candied walnuts.

18. Make a Meyer lemon gremolata with finely minced parsley, garlic and lemon zest, then add to a pot of osso bucco.

19. Roast quartered slices of Meyer lemon with olive oil, rosemary and whole shallots; serve simply, with slices of grilled bread.

20. Infuse 70% Scharffen Berger chocolate, cream and water with Meyer lemon peel for a rich chocolate soup with a citrus note.

21. Make Meyer lemon chiffon cupcakes.

22. Enjoy it in macaroon form by buying a couple of cookies at Boule Atelier in Los Angeles.

23. The next time you roast a duck, place slices of Meyer lemon in the cavity.

24. Make Meyer lemon hollandaise sauce.

25. Serve a grilled fish or fish tacos with an accompanying bowlful of Suzanne Goin’s Meyer lemon salsa (from “Sunday Suppers at Lucques”; see the recipe at latimesblogs.latimes.com/dailydish).

26. Squeeze some into your child’s hair after washing it, or before a day at the beach.

27. Make Meyer lemon gelee.

28. Bake Meyer lemon meringue pie.

29. Cool off by ordering a piece of Meyer lemon gelato pie to nibble on while you sit at the bar watching the pizzas go into the oven at Pizzeria Mozza.

30. Use your classic (No. 11) or quick-preserved (No. 3) Meyer lemons in a lamb tagine.

31. Squeeze the juice from a pound or two of Meyer lemons and freeze it in an ice cube tray; once frozen, store the cubes in plastic bags in the freezer, for use when Meyer lemon season is over.

32. When you make your favorite caramel sauce, infuse the cream with Meyer lemon peel.

33. Drop slices of Meyer lemon into a classic court bouillon.

34. Roast a whole mackerel with slices of Meyer lemons stuffed inside.

35. Throw a Meyer lemon for your dog to catch and play with; you’ll lose the lemon, but your dog’s breath will smell fantastic.

36. Drop a few slices into a pot of iced tea.

37. Make a tisane, or herbal infusion, with Meyer lemons, fresh mint and lemon grass.

38. Put a twist of Meyer lemon into a martini.

39. Make Meyer limoncello by steeping lemon peel in a bottle of vodka for two weeks. Then strain the infused vodka, mix with simple syrup and more vodka, and bottle the result.

40. Send a box of Meyer lemons to friends or relatives out of state.

41. Serve quartered Meyer lemons with a plate of gravlax, pumpernickel bread and a sauce made from fresh dill, honey, mustard and lemon zest.

42. Add Meyer lemon zest to French toast.

43. Whisk together a Meyer lemon beurre blanc (or beurre citron) -- reduce lemon juice, shallots, salt and pepper, then whisk in cubes of cold butter -- for a terrific pan sauce to serve with salmon or Arctic char.

44. For the perfect cold remedy, add the juice of half a Meyer lemon and a pinch of cayenne to a strong pot of tea.

45. Add thin slices of Meyer lemon to a pan of cooking zucchini.

46. Make lemon-chocolate truffles: Infuse the cream for a basic chocolate ganache with Meyer lemon peel.

47. Squeeze a Meyer lemon over a freshly cut papaya or guava; the acid brings out the flavor.

48. Save the Meyer lemon simple syrup left over from candying the peel (No. 6), then use it to make Bellinis (No. 74) or granitas (No. 49).

49. Make Meyer lemon granita by freezing a mixture of lemon juice and simple syrup, stirring it in the pan from time to time as it freezes.

50. Knead the zest from a couple of Meyer lemons into the dough when you make oatmeal bread.

51. Make an avgolemono sauce by whisking Meyer lemon juice into beaten eggs, then whisking hot broth into this mixture. Serve the sauce with fish or steamed artichokes.

52. While making an apple pie, squeeze a Meyer lemon over your apple slices to keep them from discoloring -- and give them a boost of flavor.

53. Make a Meyer lemon creme Anglaise.

54. Whisk the zest of a few Meyer lemons into your favorite meringue recipe.

55. Top pan-seared scallops with a squeeze of Meyer lemons.

56. Make Meyer lemon vinaigrette with extra virgin olive oil, Meyer lemon juice, a splash of champagne vinegar, sea salt, cracked black pepper and a little lemon zest.

57. Slice a few Meyer lemons and put them into your bath with a sprinkle of lavender and rosemary.

58. Throw the peel of a Meyer lemon on the grill before cooking shrimp.

59. Make a crepes suzette using Meyer lemons instead of oranges.

60. Add classic (No. 11) or quick-preserved (No. 3) Meyer lemons to a stew made with duck and olives.

61. Muddle two sliced Meyer lemons and half a bunch of parsley (stems on) in a two-quart pitcher. Fill with filtered water and keep in the fridge for a spa water refresher.

62. Squeeze a wedge of Meyer lemon into a pint of hefeweizen.

63. Roast a combination of green, black and cured olives with olive oil and a few Meyer lemon peels.

64. Make a Meyer lemon aioli for your crab cakes.

65. Pan-fry slices of Meyer lemon with baby artichokes.

66. To a tapenade (olives, capers, anchovies), add grated Meyer lemon peel.

67. Add classic or quick preserved Meyer lemons to your best harissa recipe.

68. Serve prunes soaked in Armagnac (like those from a Paula Wolfert recipe that have been sitting in my cupboard for over a year) over a bowl of vanilla ice cream and top with grated Meyer lemon peel.

69. Offer a generous supply of Meyer lemon wedges with a boiled whole Maine lobster and drawn butter.

70. Add quarters of Meyer lemons to kebabs of seared duck breast, Anjou pears and red onions.

71. Roast baby leeks in a pan with olive oil, sea salt and Meyer lemon strips

72. Perfume your sugar bowl by stirring strips of Meyer lemon peel down into the sugar.

73. Add grated Meyer lemons to your favorite shortbread recipe.

74. Make a lemon Bellini with Prosecco, Meyer lemon juice, a little simple syrup and strips of peel.

75. Take a tip from the early Romans, who used citrus juice as a mouthwash, and squeeze a Meyer lemon onto your toothbrush at night.

76. Spread thinly sliced Meyer lemons across a whole poached salmon.

77. Peel a whole Meyer lemon in one continuous long strand and drop the peel into a vodka martini.

78. Repeat No. 77, but drop the peel into a mug of hot chocolate.

79. Hollow out the interior of whole Meyer lemons, fill them with Meyer lemon ice cream, then freeze them.

80. Squeeze a pair of Meyer lemons into a pan of brown butter, add capers, and then pour the sauce over pan-fried skate.

81. Fry slices of Meyer lemon and serve with French fries and Meyer lemon mayonnaise.

82. Squeeze a Meyer lemon over a plate of steak tartare; serve with flatbread and a raw duck egg.

83. Slice Meyer lemon peels into a jar of honey and allow to sit for a few weeks: the peel will perfume the honey while it slowly candies in the jar.

84. Squeeze wedges of Meyer lemons onto fresh fish tacos.

85. Smell them as you pick them off your tree -- like farmer Peter Schaner, who says he doesn’t really cook with the Meyer lemons he harvests, but he really likes to smell them as he picks them.

86. Open a Meyer lemonade stand on your street.

87. Make Italian chef Gennero Esposito’s sweet and sour lemon sauce, from “Adventures of an Italian Food Lover” by Faith Willinger (see the recipe at latimesblogs.latimes.com/dailydish).

88. Push an old-fashioned lemon candy stick into the open side of a halved Meyer lemon, then slowly suck out the sugared juice.

89. Make a dipping sauce for grilled fish or shrimp from Meyer lemon juice, fresh chopped cilantro, basil and mint, minced garlic, ginger and chiles and fish sauce.

90. Put a Meyer lemon studded with whole cloves in your lingerie drawer.

91. Next to a few slices of raw albacore or yellowtail, drop a small spoonful of Esposito’s lemon sauce (No. 87).

92. Sprinkle a generous amount of Meyer lemon zest over a plate of spaghetti with bottarga.

93. Place a basket of Meyer lemons in a wooden bowl in the middle of the table.

94. Make maitre d’hotel butter with French butter, minced fresh herbs and finely minced classic (No. 11) preserved Meyer lemons.

95. Soak your grandmother’s old linens in a bowl of Meyer lemon juice and water to brighten them.

96. Top blueberry pancakes with a spoonful of Greek yogurt and grated Meyer lemon zest.

97. Grill slices of Meyer lemons with lipstick peppers and add to panzanella, or Italian bread salad.

98. Pour Meyer lemonade (No. 1) into Popsicle molds, freeze, then hand out to your own or other people’s children.

99. Make Meyer lemon marmalade.

100. Observe it and its fellows on the tree above you, as you sit, your back against the trunk, preferably enjoying a picnic.

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amy.scattergood@latimes.com

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Shrimp Piri piri with quick-preserved Meyer lemons

Total time: 50 minutes plus 30 minutes marinating time

Servings: 4

Note: This recipe is an adaption and combining of two recipes from Marcus Samuelsson’s “The Soul of a New Cuisine.” Piri piri is an African dish named for a hot chile pepper. We substitute jalapenos. Black (Forbidden) rice is available at selected supermarkets and food specialty stores.

Quick-preserved Meyer lemons

6 Meyer lemons

1/4 cup kosher salt

1/4 cup sugar

1. Using a vegetable peeler, peel the lemons, trying to keep away from the white pith. (If necessary, scrape any pith away from the peels with a small knife.) Squeeze the juice from the peeled lemons into a bowl and reserve: You should have about 1 cup. Add water to bring the liquid up to 2 cups; set aside to reserve.

2. Place the peel and 2 cups of water in a saucepan and bring to a rolling boil. Drain. Repeat this procedure once more. Return the drained peel to the pan, add the reserved juice, salt and sugar and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer for 10 minutes. Remove from the heat and set aside to cool. Makes about three-eighths cup.

Shrimp piri piri

1 cup black rice (Forbidden rice)

4 red jalapeno chiles, seeded, ribs removed and chopped

2 green jalapeno chiles, seeded, ribs removed and chopped

2 serrano chiles, seeded, ribs removed and chopped

2 cloves garlic

1/4 cup chopped cilantro, plus additional for garnish

1/4 cup chopped Italian parsley

Juice of 1 Meyer lemon

1 recipe quick-preserved Meyer lemon peel, julienned, divided

1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons olive oil, divided

1 pound medium shrimp, tail-on, peeled and deveined

1/4 teaspoon kosher salt

Additional chopped cilantro for garnish

1. In a medium saucepan with a tight-fitting lid, cook the black rice according to the package instructions (about 30 minutes) and reserve.

2. In a food processor, combine the chiles, garlic, cilantro, parsley, lemon juice and one-eighth cup of the preserved lemon peel and process until the mixture is a coarse paste. Add one-half cup olive oil in a slow stream and reserve. (Makes 1 cup.)

3. In a large bowl, toss the shrimp in the sauce and allow to marinate, covered and refrigerated, for 30 minutes.

4. Heat the remaining 2 tablespoons olive oil in a large skillet over high heat until it shimmers, then add the marinated shrimp. Toss for 3 to 4 minutes until the shrimp is opaque, taking care not to overcook. Season with kosher salt.

5. Serve the shrimp over the black rice, garnished with the remaining preserved lemon and a little chopped cilantro.

Each serving: 705 calories; 28 grams protein; 67 grams carbohydrates; 3 grams fiber; 37 grams fat; 5 grams saturated fat; 172 mg. cholesterol; 3,610 mg. sodium.

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Meyer lemon cardamom ice cream

Total time: 35 minutes, plus chilling and freezing time

Servings: 8

5 Meyer lemons

1 tablespoon cardamom pods, crushed

1 cup half-and-half

1 cup sugar

1/2 vanilla bean

6 large egg yolks

3 cups whipping cream

1. Peel 1 lemon with a vegetable peeler, taking care not to cut into the bitter white pith. Place the peel in a nonreactive medium saucepan with the crushed cardamom, half-and-half and sugar. Scrape the vanilla pod seeds into the pan and drop in the pod. Heat over high heat to just under a boil. Remove from the heat, and allow to steep for 10 to 15 minutes.

2. In a medium mixing bowl, whisk the egg yolks, and then pour in some of the hot half-and-half mixture, stirring constantly. Pour the mixture back into the pan and cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, until it coats the back of a wooden spoon, 4 to 5 minutes.

3. Pour the mixture through a strainer into a bowl. Finely grate the zest of 2 lemons and add it to the mixture. Allow to stand for 10 minutes.

4. Add the cream to the mixture. Juice all 5 lemons and add the juice (you should have about three-fourths cup) to the cream mixture. Chill thoroughly.

5. Freeze in an ice cream machine according to the manufacturer’s instructions. (Makes 1 quart.)

Each serving: 490 calories; 5 grams protein; 31 grams carbohydrates; 0 fiber; 24 grams fat; 24 grams saturated fat; 287 mg. cholesterol; 52 mg. sodium.

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Roasted Cornish game hens

with Meyer lemons

Total time: 1 hour, 10 minutes

Servings: 2

Note: Nicoise and Picholine olives are at selected supermarkets such as Whole Foods and Bristol Farms.

2 Cornish game hens, about 1 3/4 to 2 pounds each, washed and dried

4 Meyer lemons, divided

2 teaspoons kosher salt

3 medium fennel bulbs, trimmed and sliced thinly crosswise

3/4 cup Nicoise olives

3/4 cup Picholine olives

8 garlic cloves, peeled and halved

2 tablespoons olive oil

Black pepper

1. About an hour ahead, remove the Cornish game hens from the refrigerator and bring to room temperature.

2. Heat the oven to 425 degrees. Slice 2 of the lemons paper thin with a knife or a mandoline. With your fingers, carefully loosen the skin from the meat on the breast side of the hens. Insert 5 or 6 lemon slices underneath the skin of each hen. Put any unused slices and the ends of the lemons into the cavities, and rub the salt equally over the 2 hens.

3. Cut the remaining 2 lemons into 8 wedges and scatter them in the bottom of a shallow baking pan with the fennel, olives and garlic. Place the hens on top of the fruit and vegetables. Pour the olive oil over the 2 birds, then season with a few grinds of black pepper.

4. Roast the hens in the oven for 30 minutes, then lower the heat to 350 degrees and roast for about 20 minutes longer, or until the meat is firm, the skin is golden and the juices run clear (a thermometer placed into the thickest part of the bird will register 165 degrees); the vegetables and fruit will have started to caramelize.

5. Let the hens rest 15 minutes, then serve them with the roasted lemons, olives and fennel.

Each serving: 1,268 calories; 96 grams protein; 40 grams carbohydrates; 13 grams fiber; 81 grams fat; 17 grams saturated fat; 357 mg. cholesterol; 2,955 mg. sodium.


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