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When life gives you lemons, get creative

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If you live in California, this is the time of the year when your friends suddenly have more lemons, especially Meyer lemons, than they know what to do with. Lemons have been showing up all over the place as a result. The farmers market and local farm stand, Green String Farms, have plenty of them, as do the neighbors. So what should you do with them?

The first thing I do is wash them well, and then use a micro-planer to take all the yellow zest off of them. I freeze the zest in a small plastic or glass container, and that way I always have lemon zest ready to go. The next step is to juice the lemons. It took me a long time to spring for an electric citrus juicer, and now that I have one I puzzle at my reticence. It makes the task so much easier, and it was less than $15.

After all the lemons are juiced I strain and freeze it in ice cube trays, and once frozen I put the cubes in a zippered freezer bag so that I have lemon juice available at a moment’s notice.

A tip I learned from a cookbook focused on reducing food waste has me saving the spent citrus halves, putting them in a bag in the freezer. When I make a pitcher of ice water for the table, I add a half or two from my freezer, and instantly the water is more flavorful.

One of my favorite breads to bake is Meyer lemon-rosemary sourdough. Using the lemon zest plus fresh rosemary equals an amazing flavor combination that can be used in things other than baking bread. For example you could mix those two things into some soft butter and use it as a spread for store-bought bread. Try it on a ham or turkey sandwich to elevate those old standards to something really special.

Another thing I like to make with lemons (or grapefruit, or oranges as well) is candied lemon peel. I know you can easily find a method online for doing that, and if you have never made it, it is definitely worth the small effort it takes to make. Once made, I like to dip it in melted dark chocolate. I have found the Belgian chocolate available at Trader Joe’s to be an excellent quality chocolate for a value price.

Of course you can make lemonade, lemon bars, lemon sorbet, lemon meringue pie, lemon vinaigrette for your salads, and dozens of other wonderful things with your cache of lemon juice and zest.

Turnips

Turnips are available in the farmers markets and at Green String Farm. This is a greatly under-appreciated vegetable. If you have never tried cooking with it, I recommend you make an effort to get some and give it a try. You want ones that are smooth, not wrinkled, streaked with purple at the top, and hopefully with a few greens attached indicating how fresh they are.

While technically a root vegetable, they do not grow entirely underground; the purple top peeks up above ground. They also differ from other root vegetables in that they do not keep long, generally no longer than a week.

Some people find that blanching peeled and cut turnips in boiling salted water helps to remove the slight bitterness that some diners find in cooked turnips, so if that is a concern to you, give this pretreatment idea a try.

Mixing peeled and cut turnips half and half with potatoes when you boil them for mashing adds flavor and dimension to this ordinary dish while reducing the carb count at the same time. As an alternate to the traditional method of finishing this mash with cream and butter, you can change things up by finishing them with orange juice (instead of cream or milk) and add a touch of brown sugar, some ground ginger and butter.

Another lovely way to make turnips is to cut the peeled root into ¼ inch dice, and stew them in some melted butter and honey, season with liberal amounts of black pepper and a touch of salt. Finish them with chopped Italian parsley.

One of the simplest ways is to peel the turnips, cut into equal size pieces, toss with a bit of pure olive oil (save the extra-virgin stuff for using at room temperature) and salt and pepper, then spread out on a baking pan and roast for about 25 minutes at 350 degrees until golden brown, turning once to brown evenly.

For some other recipes such as Turnips in Paprika Cream Sauce, or Sicilian-Style Turnips with pancetta and leeks, be sure to write to me by email and I will send these to you.

(Contact Juli Lederhaus at julilederhaus@gmail.com.)