Simply Seasonal: Tasty Meyer lemons in Eagle County
EAGLE COUNTY, Colorado Midway through the holiday season we loosen our belts a little. It starts with Thanksgiving, the most famous day for feasting, and is quickly followed by holiday parties, Christmas cookies and steady arrivals of homebaked treats from friends and co-workers. The delicate Meyer lemon is a refreshing foil to decadent eating during the holiday season. Actually a hybrid of the lemon and the mandarin orange, the Meyer lemon is tangy without the pucker. Thinly sliced and added to sweet or savory dishes, this fruit is a breath of fresh air.Originating in China over 400 years ago, the Meyer lemon was introduced to the United States by Frank Meyer in 1908. An employee of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, he was impressed first by the fragrance of the fruit which hints at honey and thyme. Upon tasting the lemon, he found it slightly sweet and less acidic than the Lisbon or Eureka lemons that were typically eaten in his home country. It became popular as a food item in the United States after being rediscovered by chefs, such as Alice Waters at Chez Panisse, during the California Cuisine revolution in the 1970s. Today Meyer lemon trees are also a popular plant for the home gardener. They are hardy plants indoors in cool climates and flourish outdoors in warmer areas.Jeremy Kittelson, executive chef at Restaurant Avondale, agreed that the seasonality of this elegant citrus fruit is welcome during the holidays. Meyer lemons add balance to rich dishes like braised lamb, and provide a substitute for vinegar in salad dressings, he said. The aroma is what sets it apart. Here he shares a simple salad dressing for mixed greens and poached shrimp. Any seafood would work with this salad, he said.Avondales Pastry Chef, Allison Helfer, offers a refreshing lemon tart as a dessert option during the holidays. Her delicious Lemon Sage Tart is as pretty as it is tasty.The Meyer lemon is fragrant and cleanses the palate, she said. Its light, sweet tang is a perfect finish to a rich meal.
1/2 cup Meyer lemon juice (2 to 3 Meyer lemons)11/2 cup very fruity extra virgin olive oil2 cups mixed greens1/2 cup fresh fennel, thinly sliced1/2 cup radishes, quartered 1/2 cup cucumber, thinly sliced10 large gulf shrimp, poached1 Meyer lemon, thinly sliced, then quarteredWhisk together the olive oil and Meyer lemon juice. Combine greens, fennel, radishes and cucumbers in a bowl. Toss lightly with desired amount of dressing. Arrange the greens on two plates and add shrimp decoratively. Garnish with sliced Meyer lemons and drizzle additional dressing over shrimp, if desired. Refrigerate any remaining dressing for another salad. Yield: Two main dish salads.
Crust:1 2/3 cup flourZest of 1 Meyer lemonPinch baking powder2 egg yolks1/2 cup sugar1/2 cup butterCream the butter and sugar. Add the egg yolks and mix in. Mix together flour, zest and baking powder. Add dry mixture to butter, sugar and egg mixture. Mix to combine. Press into a 9-inch, 10-inch, or 11-inch tart pan with a removable bottom. Line with aluminum foil and pie weights (or dried beans). Bake for 10 to 15 minutes at 350 degrees until golden. Allow to cool before filling.Filling:11⁄2 cup sugar2 Tablespoons Cornstarch3 eggs3 egg yolks1⁄3 cup Meyer lemon juice2 teaspoon Meyer lemon zest1⁄2 cup orange juice1⁄4 cup heavy cream5 to 6 fresh sage leavesHeat the cream in microwave until hot and add sage leaves. Allow to steep and cool to room temperature. Discard leaves. Mix sugar and cornstarch to remove lumps and set aside. Whisk together eggs, yolks, lemon juice, lemon zest, orange juice and cooled sage cream. Whisk in the sugar and cornstarch. Pour into pre-baked tart shell. Bake at 275 degrees for 30 minutes or until filling is set. Chill. Slice and garish with whipped cream and fresh berries. Yield: One tart.Sue Barham is the marketing director for Restaurant Avondale and Larkspur Restaurant. Avondale recently opened in The Westin Riverfront Resort & Spa in Avon. The restaurant features a West Coast inspired, seasonal menu and the chefs use time-honored cooking methods, such as slow roasting and braising, to create simple dishes rich in flavor. The wine program focuses on small production wines to complement the straightforward cuisine. For more information visit http://www.avondalerestaurant.com.