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Chef Stacy believes that cooking from scratch and using the best ingredients are the secrets to preparing delicious and memorable meals. She has created dozens of classes for the home chef and teaches students how to master culinary techniques and recipes in just one session. Read on to see what she's dishing up for The Oakland Press today....

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Step Into Spring with the Refreshing Flavor of Lemon

Limon, limone, limone, lemon. Perhaps the most popular citrus fruit, the lemon is prized internationally for its flavor and versatility. It is unclear where this brightly colored gem originated, though it is widely thought to hail from India. Lemons have a rich history in Italy, Egypt, Spain, and America.

There are at least 15 different varieties of lemons, with Lisbon and the Eureka being the most common. These two varieties are so common, it is often hard to discern the difference between them.

Lemons have a bright yellow exterior, and a thick white pith underneath the skin. The pith is extremely bitter and has an unpleasant taste. The yellow skin is often removed for zest, which is used to flavor many recipes.

When zesting a lemon, remove only the thin yellow skin, avoiding the bitter pith under the skin. There are several ways to zest a lemon. One method is to use a vegetable peeler, and then julienne, chop, or mince the skin. Another way is to use a tool called a zester. These come in different sizes. A box grater is also a useful, though awkward tool when zesting. Finally, a microplane grater is the easiest tool to use for this task. Once you have removed the zest from the lemon, it can be used to flavor cookies, cakes, pies, salad dressings, marinades and more.

When extracting the juice from a lemon, simply roll the whole lemon back and forth on a countertop to soften up the pulp. By doing this, the flesh is essentially breaking down, making it easier to get the maximum amount of juice from the lemon.

Lemons are also a delicious flavoring agent when they are preserved. Preserved lemons are a popular ingredient in Mediterranean cooking. Available in some specialty stores, preserved lemons can be purchased, but you can also make them in your own kitchen, if you have the time. When making preserved lemons, it is important to keep all sanitation issues in mind, to avoid dangerous food borne illnesses that are a result of improper preserving methods.

Lemons brighten many dishes with their color and their flavor. Consider pairing lemon with asparagus, artichokes, shrimp, almost any kind of seafood, chicken, pork, and berries.

To try some creative recipies featuring lemons, including how to make your own preserved lemons, register for our "Taste of Spring - Lemon" hands-on cooking class on May 22.


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