While the rest of the country is huddled under blankets or freezing on the bleachers of subzero football stadiums, we here in Southern California are in the middle of our permanent summer. An unusually warm and painfully dry one, but balmy nonetheless. But it is technically winter here, and the farmers markets are loaded with "cold-weather" fruits and vegetables. Which means we're in prime citrus season: tangerines and all kinds of oranges, kumquats, grapefruit and, perhaps best of all, Meyer lemons.
Abundant Meyer lemon trees are one of the greatest things about living here, along with taco trucks and the beach. With a glorious floral aroma, a thin, bright, canary yellow skin that's actually edible, and both an acidic tang and a low sweetness, the Meyer is everything that's great about citrus, magically combined into one fruit. A cross between a lemon and a sweet orange, the Meyer was imported to the United States from China more than a century ago by the man whose name the fruit bears. Meyers are in season now and for the next three months or so, enough time to use the lemons for a lot more than lemonade and to fill a pretty bowl in the kitchen. Here are five great recipes.
5. Alice Medrich's lemon bars
When she's not blowing our minds with chocolate, Berkeley-based pastry chef and cookbook author extraordinaire Alice Medrich is playing with fruit. These lemon bars are of the refined variety, with a pastry crust and a baked, custardy filling. Tart, sweet and dusted with confectioners sugar, they'd make a lovely plated dessert with a demitasse of espresso - or a wrapped lunchbox treat with a carton of milk. Assuming you don't just eat them out of the pan in your kitchen, which is probably what would happen around here.
4. White on Rice Couple's Meyer lemon margarita
The combination of floral, tart and sweet makes Meyer lemons pretty fantastic in cocktail recipes. White on Rice Couple, the food blogger-photographer - cookbook author couple based in Costa Mesa, grow lots of Meyers in their backyard. Which makes the fruit readily available for this simple but kind of great margarita recipe. Mix up a pitcher, get some sea salt to rim your glasses with and, well, find a lawn chair.
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3. Paula Wolfert's Seven-Day Preserved Lemons
Paula Wolfert, author of The Cooking of Southwest France and a zillion other books, makes a mean jar of preserved lemons. Instead of using normal lemons, try Meyers, which have the thin skin that makes this fast version of preserved lemons even easier - as well as providing the floral sweet notes missing from harsher lemons. Since Meyers will be around for a few more months, maybe lay in some Mason jars now with the surfeit at the markets. That way, you'll have them all year long for use in tagines, salads, whatever.
2. Suzanne Goin's Meyer lemon - green olive salsa
From Goin's Sunday Suppers at Lucque book, this is a simple salsa that Goin pairs with grilled halibut (see: p. 316-317). The Meyers are diced with their peels on, then combined with olives (Lucques, of course) for a chunky sauce that probably would be good with not only fish but also roast chicken, pork, cheeses - probably even cardboard. If you're making the book's grilled halibut, save some Meyers, since that recipe calls for them, too.
1. Chez Panisse Meyer lemon meringue pie
If you like lemon meringue pie, this is like a perfect storm in a pie plate. From the pastry kitchen of Alice Waters' legendary Berkeley restaurant, a fairly traditional rendition of a lemon meringue pie - but with Meyers taking things up a few more notches. A perfect pastry crust, a Meyer lemon curd filling and a towering cloud of meringue.