By my thinking, there are few foods as beloved and maligned as the lemon – an aesthetically perfect fruit that makes everything taste better – not by its universal appeal but more by its commitment. Of the five tastes, the lemon is the poster child for sour and, by that token, is hardly ever enjoyed simply on its own. It is usually paired, using just about any other food to elevate its own profile. One could say the lemon is opportunistic, like salt, but its benevolence cannot be understated. Everyone wins when lemon comes into the picture.
I love lemon, as even the most dense person could probably deduce by my blog title. When I try to think of something healthy, whole, complex, and that which embodies my favorite season, there is none other. So when summer comes and our hemisphere is revolving so devotedly around the sun, so doth my kitchen with this perfect bit of citrus. A small snapshot of what I have been making.
I started making this infused liqueur when I was about 24 with no other motivation than to enjoy a less sweet, more natural version of this Italian favorite. Commercially produced limoncello looks and tastes bionic and is far removed from what makes Italian liqueurs so distinct. I embrace Campari, Aperol, and Galliano for all the same reasons – they’re confusing and one must enjoy them for what they are. I would argue limoncello is more universal than the former but it isn’t thanks to the yellow #5 or the high-fructose corn syrup. It is refreshing, colorful, and can be imbibed on its own or floated on top of most cocktails. It’s also SUPER easy to make. Here’s how:
• Zest 2 large lemons and let the zest infuse one 750-ml bottle of vodka for, oh, about a month. Don’t pick top shelf vodka. Save that for martinis. But anything out of a plastic bottle tastes like fire and that’s not ideal either. I prefer Monopolowa or even Absolut.
• After a month, strain the zest and add either a simple syrup or honey to taste. Simple syrup is one cup of sugar and one cup of water, reduced to a syrup on the stove. Honey is made by bees and is way better for you. Let the sweetener settle into your limoncello for maybe another week.
• Pour it into a bottle and store it in the freezer. Due to the cold, your limoncello will look and act like syrup until it heats to room temperature. It tastes better cold but that’s simply my opinion. Have some people over and serve 1 – 2 oz. pours in your fanciest liqueur glasses – or a coffee mug. I mean, a vessel is a vessel. And limoncello is alcoholic lemonade.
I’ve been roasting a lot of chicken lately and have yet to find a staple more complementary and satisfying than lemon rice. And if you are savvy with rice on a stovetop, this should pose no challenge. I haven’t explored the world of rice makers so I can’t speak for this recipe in that context. But hey! If there’s an easier way, I always appreciate knowing about it.
• 2 tbsp. of sweet onion
• 2 pinches of thyme or herbes de provence
• 1 c. of short grain white rice (I use sushi rice – I’m sure arborio would be good, too. I tried a long-grain jasmine. Not so much.)
• 1 3/4 cups of vegetable broth
• 1/4 cup of lemon juice
• 2 tbsp. of lemon zest
• salt & pepper, to taste
• 1 chopped scallion, for garnish
• Saute the onion with herbs in olive oil until translucent. Add rice and stir for a minute.
• Add broth, lemon juice, zest, and salt & pepper. Bring to a boil.
• Put a lid on it and turn to low.
• Leave it alone for 25 minutes. Seriously, don’t take the lid off. The most common rice mistake is over-handling. Walk away from the rice and tend to your control issues.
• After 25 minutes, turn off the heat (gas) or pull off the burner (electric) and let it sit for 10 minutes without taking off the lid. Again, walk away.
• After 10 minutes, come over, take the lid off, marvel at your rice, and fluff it while stirring in the scallion.
• Eat it with anything or by itself.
My Summer Cocktail
• 2 oz. of dry or white vermouth (Dolin, if you please)
• A splash of lemon juice
Serve with 1 – 2 rocks and put on a white linen suit. You look great.