For the second time in less than two months, I've been gifted with something I absolutely adore. Meyer lemons...you love them too, don't you? If you don't, it's only because you haven't used them yet. And if you haven't, you should. No, really. All right...well...perhaps I'm being just a tad opinionated, especially since some people really don't like lemons very much at all. Or at least they think they don't. One of those people actually lives with me. We'll draw a tasteful veil over that particular discussion...the one about how I constantly use various ingredients that someone thinks he doesn't like, and he gobbles down all the food anyway...
But let's get back to our central theme here, which is the Meyer lemon. This citrus, according to some definitions, is "not really a lemon at all", but a cross between a mandarin orange and a lemon. It's somewhat sweeter than a regular lemon, and has a gorgeous, deep yellow-orange skin. (The picture doesn't really do them justice; we don't have a good digital camera yet, so this is taken with a video camera and I don't think the color is really true.) But what even the best picture couldn't give you is the Meyer's elusive perfume -- rather like a lemon, yet with a pervasively floral, something-slightly-orangey scent. The juice of this citrus is a wondrous thing -- but the zest is even more bewitching.
Several years ago, when I too was a neophyte with regard to this delectable fruit, I noticed its appearance as an ingredient in recipes and on menus -- mostly those of chefs and restaurants in California. Meyer Lemon Tart; Farm-raised Chicken with Meyer Lemon and Chanterelles; Pan-Sauteed Sea Bass with Meyer Lemon Beurre Blanc; Meyer Lemon Mousse, Meyer Lemongrette Dressing...what was this phenomenon? I explored, and finally found a few in a box on the floor at Fairway. What a revelation! Now that we can finally get them in New York, of course, they're practically passé. By now the chefs have surely found new darlings to make much of on their menus and in their cookbooks. But I've found a passion that I'm confident will endure.
So, my recent good fortune: first my friend Lea (who lives in Marin County and has a Meyer lemon tree in her yard) Fed-exed me a dozen gorgeous lemons for Christmas. And this is a woman I've never even met! She's a friend I made through an online culinary forum. What a pal! I made lemon curd, lemon cookies, lemon pasta, lemon dressings, lemon marinades. Then I discovered that my colleague Joe was going to the Bay Area on a brief work-related trip, and I dropped a rather broad hint (something on the order of "Joe, would you get me these special lemons that I know you've never heard of, but that I really really want?" Subtle, no?). Joe made a quick stop at a Farmers' Market in Oakland, and for a mere pittance (we won't talk about how much these little beauties cost in NYC) brought me back the golden orbs you see in the photo above, this very morning. He also had the good sense to bring some back for Chris, his wife.
What fun I'm going to have. Tonight's sauteed basa fillets benefited from a nice soak in some Meyer juice; tomorrow's chicken will receive a lovely marinade; and my brother's birthday dinner will include a lemon-scented pilaf and a lemon-dressed salad, as well as an asparagus soup brightened by the, umm, zestiness of the Meyer's zest. Here's hoping that life (or good friends) will give you some lemons, too...and may they all be Meyer lemons.