Get your juice on!

By / Food / August 20th, 2009 / 1

It started with a glass of lemonade. Not just any lemonade, mind you, but the homemade kind, with a fat, fresh lemon squeezed right into the glass. Sugar to taste, cold water and a handful of ice cubes. Perfection.

This simple glass of lemonade launched my culinary quest for the summer. If I had placed an ad in the newspaper it would have read: Desperately Seeking Lemons.

It’s not unusual for me to fixate on an ingredient to the point of exhaustion. A few years ago I became enamoured with mango chutney. Mixed with curry paste, mayo and sour cream, chutney is at the heart of flavourful and spicy pasta salads, chicken sandwiches and veggie dips.

Now, I declare 2009 as the year of the lemon. But first, a few suggestions:

Look for lemons that are firm, smooth-skinned and heavy for their size. Lemons with thick pebbly skin will yield less juice.

For short-term storage, keep lemons on the counter for up to a week, then move them to the fridge. If you can’t use them all, store their zest and juice in the freezer.

If you want maximum juice, pop lemons in the microwave for 10 to 20 seconds. You can also massage room temperature lemons by rolling them on the counter.

I used to have an electric citrus juicer with way too many parts, which I never used. Then I switched to a handheld juicer with excellent results. Pop a half between the lemon-shaped ‘vise’ and squeeze — it will eek out the very last drop from the lemon.

To remove seeds and pulp, strain the lemon juice once or twice through a fine mesh strainer.

lemonade vinaigrette

This is delicious on romaine with diced apples and shredded cheddar cheese, spooned over an avocado half or poured onto grilled tuna atop buttery smashed potatoes. I use about 4 tbsp oil depending on how much juice the lemons yield.

Juice of 2 lemons

Sugar and salt to taste

4 tbsp extra virgin olive oil

In a jar, mix lemon juice, sugar and salt. Add olive oil. Screw lid onto jar. Shake jar until blended. This will dress 4 side salads or 2 large dinner salads.



chicken piccata

Serves 4

A lovely and lemony dish adapted from The America’s Test Kitchen Family Cookbook (published by America’s Test Kitchen). The instructions suggest removing and freezing the chicken tenderloin. This small strip of meat adds extra bulk to a boneless chicken breast and prevents even cooking. I actually keep what I call a ‘tenderloin file’ in my freezer. When it fills up, I use the tenderloins for a stir-fry.

1/2 cup flour

4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts

Salt and pepper, to taste

4 tbsp vegetable oil

1 shallot, minced

1 garlic clove, minced

1 cup chicken broth

1/2 large lemon, sliced into half-moons

1/4 cup fresh lemon juice (from about 1 and one-half lemons)

2 tbsp capers, rinsed

3 tbsp unsalted butter

2 tbsp minced fresh parsley

Heat oven to 200˚F.

Spread the flour in a shallow dish.

Remove tenderloin from chicken breast and freeze for another use. Lay the chicken smooth side up on a cutting board. Holding one hand on top of the chicken, carefully cut each chicken breast in half horizontally to yield 2 pieces. Pound to uniform thickness.

Pat dry; then season with salt and pepper. Dredge through flour to coat, shaking off any excess.

Heat 2 tbsp oil in a 12-inch skillet over medium-high heat. Add half the chicken and cook until light golden brown on both sides, about 4 minutes. Transfer to a pan and keep warm in oven. Repeat with remaining chicken.

Add the shallot and garlic to the oil left in the skillet and cook over medium heat until softened, about 2 minutes. Stir in the broth and lemon slices, scraping up browned bits, and simmer uncovered until reduced and syrupy, about 8 minutes.

Stir in the lemon juice and capers and any accumulated chicken juices. Turn the heat to low and whisk in the butter, one piece at a time. Off the heat, stir in parsley and season with salt and pepper to taste. Spoon the sauce over chicken before serving.

A crisp, fresh Pinot Grigio would be right at home with the Piccata sauce.



roasted salmon with lemon butter sauce

Serves 4

I like salmon fillets with skin as the skin protects the flesh from drying out during roasting. The sauce takes one whole cup of butter so save this recipe for a very special occasion. If I learned anything in cooking school it’s that butter makes the world go ’round. I already knew that butter makes the hips go round.

4 salmon fillets, with skin if desired

Extra virgin olive oil

Salt and pepper

Juice of 1 lemon

Lemon butter sauce (recipe follows)

Heat oven to 400˚F.

Coat a baking dish with cooking oil spray.

Rub the salmon fillets with oil; then season with salt and pepper. Arrange in prepared baking dish, skin side down. Pour lemon juice over the salmon.

Roast, uncovered, for 18 to 20 minutes or until fish flakes easily with a fork. Cooking time will vary depending on the thickness of the fish.



lemon butter sauce

2 cloves garlic, minced

1 shallot, minced

1/4 cup dry white wine

3 tbsp fresh lemon juice

1 cup cold unsalted butter, cut into 1 inch pieces


Lemon zest or fresh dill for garnish (optional)

Place the garlic, shallots, white wine and lemon juice into a saucepan and simmer over medium high heat until reduced by half, about 3 minutes. Turn heat to low.

Slowly whisk in cold butter, one piece at a time. Whisk constantly for a smooth consistency. Add salt to taste.

Strain sauce to remove solids. Taste and add more lemon juice or salt if desired.

Pour lemon butter sauce over roasted salmon. Garnish with lemon zest or dill, if desired.

Enjoy with a light and fruity Beaujolais or if you prefer white, try a Muscadet from the Sevre-et-Maine region of the Loire Valley.



lemon linguine

Serves 4 as a side dish or two as a main dish

Enjoy as a vegetarian dish or serve grilled shrimp skewers on top. Use this recipe as a base for throwing in whatever leafy greens and herbs you have on hand such as watercress, arugula or parsley. If desired, top with fresh-diced tomatoes.

250g linguine, cooked and drained (reserve 1/2 cup pasta water)

Juice of 2 lemons plus grated zest

1 cup basil leaves, chopped

2 cups baby spinach

4 scallions, chopped

4 tbsp extra virgin olive oil

Salt to taste

Crushed red peppercorns to taste (optional)

Toss hot linguine with all ingredients. Moisten with reserved pasta water if needed.

This dish tastes like a summer day, especially when paired with a Niagara Chardonnay.



lemon bars

Makes about 12 bars

My favourite dessert of all time: Lemony, luscious and easy!

1 cup flour

1/2 cup butter, softened at room temperature

1/4 cup icing sugar

2 eggs, beaten

1 cup sugar

2 tbsp fresh lemon juice

1 tbsp lemon zest

2 tbsp flour

1/2 tsp baking powder

Icing sugar, for dusting

Heat oven to 350˚F.

Coat 9-inch square baking pan with cooking oil spray. If desired, line pan with aluminum foil, with sides overhanging. Spray foil.

For crust, in medium bowl with electric mixer, beat flour, butter and icing sugar. Press into prepared pan. Bake 20 minutes or until light golden brown.

For topping, in large bowl whisk eggs, sugar, lemon juice and lemon zest. Stir in flour and baking powder. Spread over warm crust. Bake 20 additional minutes or until set in centre.

Cool completely. If using foil, carefully lift cooled dessert from pan and slice. Otherwise, slice in pan and use spatula to remove each piece. Dust with icing sugar.

My latest passion is the Concord Ice Wine from Ohio (see Tidings May/June 2009). Try it or any ice wine with this sweet-tart dessert.


Quench Food Editor, Nancy Johnson, minced, sliced, chopped, sautéed and sipped her way through George Brown College’s culinary program with a focus on food writing and wine. Nancy cooks by the code her Italian grandmother taught her: For the best results, always use the freshest, best ingredients. She writes for Ohio-based Wine Buzz Magazine and recently published a short story in Woman’s World Magazine. She is always on a diet.

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