When life gives you lemons… use them on everything. Should put a bird on it be replaced by put lemon in it? This food blogger says yes. In my definition of a well-stocked kitchen, lemons rate high on the list. Like garlic, I turn to them many times a day to brighten and enhance the flavors of a myriad of dishes.
They give an ordinary glass of water pizzazz. They add a touch of sweetness to garlicky hummus, Olive & Artichoke Pâté, and pesto. They make my favorite homemade salad dressing pop, and they’re essential to my cauliflower caullandaise. While they are a fruit, in many ways they act as a spice in my repertoire. Plus, when the temperatures stay as high as they have this summer, the cooling aspects of citrus feel all the more energizing and refreshing. Here are some of the ways that lemons have been earning their keep in my kitchen:
Of course, spicy black beans in tacos love lemon, but what about our friend, Great Northern Beans? These simple beans come alive sautéed in garlic with sage and rosemary to taste and a squeeze of lemon. Hearty greens like kale and collards soften under fresh lemon juice. Sauté them in garlic and brighten any bitterness with juice from this tart citrus fruit. Add them to a bowl with a new* favorite grain, millet, and you’ve got yourself a very wholesome breakfast, lunch, or dinner. (*Well, new except for the fact that it’s been around for thousands of years and exists on almost every continent. Otherwise, it’s totally new.)
Lemon juice as a finish on a tofu scramble brightens the savory quality of (a drained block of extra-firm) tofu sautéed with garlic, onions, peppers, kale, carrots, and whatever other vegetables are on hand. Add cumin, oregano, paprika, chili powder, and coriander (I generally start at one teaspoon of each and work from there). Of course, a pinch of turmeric and a healthy helping of nutritional yeast flakes gives color and a cheesy finish. A serving of lime-enhanced guacamole brings even more citrus to the table. (The seitan bacon on top is made by cutting the Smoky Seitan from Vegan Diner into strips. I sautéed it in a hot pan with oil, and then caramelized it with splashes of tamari and maple syrup or agave syrup. Highly recommended.)
Obviously a summer heat wave calls for lemonade aplenty. I’ve often been amused by the idea of chatting up one of the kids in my neighborhood at their makeshift stand and asking them obnoxious questions like, “So are those organic lemons? What kind of sweetener do you use?” And then setting up a rival stand across the street, advertising that the lemonade is made with agave syrup and scrawling on my sign in big letters, “All organic. $7 a glass.” Imagine the looks that I’d get! In my somewhat rural community, I don’t think I’d get any takers. (Outside of my husband, of course, but he gets the family rate.)
Until then, I’ve been gathering the summer’s best fruit and adding a cup or two of it to my Vitamix with a peeled lemon, agave syrup or sugar, water, and ice. Using a whole lemon – seeds and all – makes for a drink that’s a little more pulpy than just squeezing the lemons, but I don’t mind that. I’ve been making strawberry lemonade and watermelon lemonade. Cherry lemonade is in the plans for this afternoon.
For a vegetable-based take on lemonade, cooling celery, cucumber, and lemon juice feels light and restorative. Similar to the drink “I Am Healthy” at Café Gratitude, I’ve taken to regularly making this juice mixture first by juicing the celery and cucumber and then adding lemon juice by squeezing one wedge at a time into my glass. A little lemon brightens, but too much can overwhelm into a tart concoction that’s hard to choke down. It seems that about half a medium-sized lemon is perfect for me. Put it into a big, beautiful wine glass to make taking care of yourself feel luxurious. Bottle of red? Bottle of white? Nah, make mine green.