You'd have to be in a food blog coma if you haven't read at least one blog post about the Meyer lemon. Before I started this food blogging thing, I had never heard of this lemon before. However, this past winter, it seemed like every other post was about the Meyer lemon. People were making all sorts of dishes out of Meyer lemons: cakes, pies, chicken, ice cream, lemon curd . . . the list goes on and on.
I was really intrigued. What is a Meyer Lemon? And what makes it so special?
The Meyer lemon originated from China, and is actually a cross between a regular lemon and a Mandarin orange! For years it was used mostly as a decorative houseplant because of its pretty fruit. It wasn't really recognized as a food item until the early 1900's when Frank Meyer, an American agricultural explorer sent by the US government to seek out new plant species, brought some samples to the US. Since then, people like Alice Waters and Martha Stewart have made this fruit really popular in America.
The color difference between a Meyer lemon and a regular lemon is striking. In the picture below, I have laid Meyer lemon slices next to normal lemon slices. Note how the Meyer lemon is almost orange in color while the normal lemon is a pale yellow.
The Meyer lemon is much less tart and has a light sweetness that must come from the Mandarin side of the family. Its flavor is much more floral and less astringent, and is quite enjoyable on its own (the regular lemon is much more tart!). The skin of a Meyer lemon is much thinner, much less pithy than a regular lemon's rind. In fact, some say you can eat the rind, although I have not tried that yet.
You can substitute the Meyer lemon for regular lemons in most recipes, as long as you keep in mind that the Meyer lemon is less tart, slightly sweeter, and has a more floral and complex flavor.
Here's a lovely salad I have been enjoying as part of my "detox" diet for the last few days. After two weekends in a row of traveling to both NYC and DC (more on my dining experiences there soon!) I really needed to clean out some of those rich foods from my system!
I used the citrus vinaigrette recipe from my Thomas Keller citrus marinated salmon with potato blinis and garden greens post. As for modifications, I used a 1:1 ratio of Meyer Lemon juice and regular lemon juice as the "citrus juice." I wanted some tartness (from the regular lemon), but I also wanted the sweeter, more aromatic flavors of the Meyer lemon. I also found that adding just a touch of sea salt really brought out the flavors of the dressing and made the entire salad much more delicious. Of course, you can use regular salt or kosher salt if you don't have sea salt on hand.
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