Saturday, January 4, 2014

12 Days of Meyers - Lemon Pizza

I'd like to introduce Katie, the first guest writer for this year's Twelve Days of Meyers posts, who writes the Slow Down And Savor blog. Although I've never met her in person, I feel like I know her very well as we have talked and traded many notes through our social media channels over the last year or so. Unfortunately, even the two times she came out to my house to pick up lemons I was at work and did not get to meet her. This sweet newlywed writes a powerful little blog where she continues to encourage readers to slow down and savor the good life. She took no time at all to jump at my offer to write a guest post and started testing recipes with the bag of Meyers I gave her. Enjoy her twist on the sweet and savory of these lemons and don't forget to check out all the other yummy dishes and write-ups that she puts her heart and passion into.

When I first received the bounty of Meyers, I had so many ideas. I knew I'd make more than just one recipe, but I didn't know how much I would end up doing with the little guys.  I couldn't help but dive right in and start using them for, well, everything! Including some of the best dang guacamole I've had. The lemons added something different, something incredible to this guacamole. The lemons some how brightened the already fresh dip, and brought out several different flavors. Basically, it was amazing.

I then scoured the internet, looking for different ways to jazz up my life with lemons, and discovered the lemon and lavender bath. The bath smelled SO good, and no joke, it was super relaxing. And guess what? I didn't get at all sticky! Win. However, the lavender looked kind of like a bunch of bugs, and since I just threw it in willy-nilly without a care in the world, draining my tub was something of a chore. So for those of you who want to indulge in a lemon-lavender bath, please beware and use a cheesecloth or other kind of device to hold your lavender together, or else, welcome to my nightmare.

Once I cleaned my tub free of lavender and lemon seeds, I was in the mood to bake. So bake I did. I whipped up a beautiful and delicious Meyer Lemon Meringue Pie from an Alton Brown recipe, and received one of the best compliments ever from the kiddo: "It looks so good and it tastes so good, I don't think that you made it. I think you bought it. I like your pies… but I feel like you didn't make that one because it's really good."

But I didn't stop there. After the guac, bath and pie, I moved on to a more savory situation with Meyer Lemon Chicken Piccata. What I love about using these Meyer's, is that you can use them for both sweet and savory dishes. So when I stumbled across a mouth-watering recipe for this chicken dish, I knew I had a winner. All I'd do is switch out the regular lemon juice for my Meyer lemon juice. I never made chicken piccata before. I've actually never even tasted chicken piccata before, so this was a first for everyone, but man it sounded really good. I love capers and lemony goodness, so it had to be good.

And it was. It wasn't even hard to make, which surprised the crap out of me. Something with such a fancy name sounds hard to make. But no. It wasn't. It was flavorful, and tart, and satisfied the palates of my hubby, the kiddo and me, which is always a winner in my book. Served with a side of corn and pasta, and you've got a healthy and delicious meal.

To add some zest to snack-time, I blended up a bowl of garlicky Meyer Lemon and Parsley hummus, and found a new go-to dip in that stuff. Whew, it was dang good, guys. Dang. Good.

Now, one may think that after using these lemons for practically everything, my family and I would be lemoned-out, but we weren't. Not at all. I even decided to use the rest of these beautiful yellow gems in a recipe I concocted all on my own; a recipe that I would be preparing for a big pot-luck style Christmas party. I had no idea how my idea would pan out, but I knew it would at least be interesting.

My idea came from my recipe for those goat cheese crostinis with Meyer lemon, olive and fig relish from last year. This time, I'd be making a flatbread pizza, using some of the same ingredients.

So here it is folks. Let me introduce:

 Slow Down & Savor's Meyer Lemon, Goat Cheese and Olive Flatbread Pizza. Exciting stuff, huh?

1 pre-packaged flatbread pizza crust
Olive Oil
Goat Cheese (4-6 oz)
Garlic-stuffed olives (or any olives you like), chopped
2 Meyer Lemons, washed, de-seeded and chopped, rind-on
red pepper flakes

Pre-heat your oven to 350 degrees F
Apply a thin layer of olive oil to the crust, and bake it for about 4 minutes.
Remove crust, and add your goat cheese. It's easiest to just crumble it over the crust and spread it around with your hands after.
Add the olives, lemons and red pepper flakes, and put back in oven for an additional 10 minutes, or until the crust is golden brown.
Remove, and let cool before cutting and serving.

This flatbread pizza was a hit. It was intriguing and interesting, tart and savory, salty and briny. Personally, I loved how the lemons brought out all the deliciousness from each of the ingredients, making the whole thing bright and exciting. It wasn't your average pizza, that's for sure. I'm glad I went out of the box, and tried something new.

So thank you, thank you, thank you to Kristina for providing me with an ingredient that took my family, friends and I on a real adventure.

Friday, January 3, 2014

12 Days of Meyers - Limoncello

When it comes to Meyer Lemons, without a doubt, I have been blessed beyond words.  While we only have a single tree, it has for years produced the most wonderful lemons and more often than not, more than we could ever use in a single season.  We had to pick a little earlier than normal this year due to an early season freeze, but it didn't really hurt because this year's crop ripened a few weeks earlier than year's past. I was concerned that we did not have as many as last season (over 1,000), but as always our sweet little tree provided enough for our needs (Limoncello) as well as more than enough to share - I also believe that when life gives you lemons, you should bless others.  I'm convinced a whole blog could be devoted to the beauty of Meyer lemons and it seems that there's no end to recipes, so because of that, I have decided to put a sightly different spin on this year's 12 Days of Meyers series.  I've invited some of my friends and favorite local food bloggers to write guest posts with their favorite lemon recipes. Naturally, I let them know up-front that I would provide them with as many Meyers as they needed for testing their recipes. So, over the next two weeks, I am super pleased to introduce some truly lovely bloggers and some pretty awesome friends that know how to squeeze every last drop of goodness out of these sweet little orbs.  But before I do, I'm going to handle Day One with our Limoncello recipe, along with a little history about our tree.

We brought it to Austin when we moved here over 12 years ago from California. The tree originally belonged to my Grandmother and it spent about 15 years in a pot before we received it, and another 4 or 5 before we moved. The one question we get asked often is "How can one tree produce so many lemons here in Texas?" Honestly, we don't have any secrets. Its got good roots and three walls of protection from the elements. In the past we have wrapped it in Christmas lights to give it a trace of heat in the winter and soaked it good during those hot Texas summers. All in all, a lot of prayer went out over that tree every time the elements tried to swallow it up. We thought we came close to losing it one winter during a particularly hard freeze - one of the few years that we did not get a crop.  Luckily, my little brother mailed us lemons from his tree back in California so that we could make our annual batch of Limoncello.  This year, my sweet tequila guy braved the cold and picked almost 500 lemons before the freezing arctic air swept in overnight. We left another 300 or so on the tree as they were still a few weeks away from being ripe and thought it would be worth the risk to leave them on the tree to see if they would survive. They did and we are still picking them a few at a time for our daily needs.

Since  Limoncello is something we have been making for years, I thought it fitting to post our recipe for Day One of this year's 12 Days of Meyers. It's a little different from other recipes out there as we zest our lemons instead of peeling them, use a combination of Everclear and Vodka, and we let ours sit longer then most. But I promise the flavor is well worth the effort. Come Spring when it starts to get warm you will find us sitting on the back porch sipping this ice cold elixer, reminding us how blessed we are to have such a beautiful tree.

My Tequila Guy picking this year before the freeze. 

1.5 Cup Lemon Zest (15-25 lemons, depending on size)
1 Liter Vodka (80 Proof)
500 ml Everclear (190 Proof)
1 Liter Simple Syrup (Ratio: 1 cup water/.75 cup sugar)

Thoroughly wash lemons with cold water and dry.
With a microplane, zest lemons.
Put zest in sterile, sealable jar.
Add vodka and Everclear, seal, and let sit in a cool, dry, dark place for 30-45 days. Add simple syrup, seal and let sit 14 more days. Strain and filter (cheesecloth and coffee filters do the trick) and place in freezer overnight. Filter again for clarity. *NOTE: It should go without saying, but Everclear is EXTREMELY flammable. Please take appropriate precautions when handling

If 190 proof Everclear is not available in your area, substitute with 151 proof Everclear and use 750 ml Simple Syrup instead of 1 liter.

This will result in almost 2.5 liters of ~70 proof Limoncello