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When we went through customs in Toronto, I dutifully filled out the customs form, checking off the little box that said we were bringing food items into Canada. When we passed the customs officer, he asked me what kind of food we had with us. I started off dutifully, listing “Lemons, dried chiles, some cheese, some vinegars….” (actually three vinegars–sherry, grapefruit, and sugar cane. Cool, huh?). Then the full magnitude of our food purchases hit me and I trailed off in embarrassment. I was sure he’d judge us, so I didn’t mention the chocolates, tapioca pearls, pistachios, dried cherries, dried apricots, Valhrona cocoa powder, dried sweetened hibiscus flowers (!), chile-spiced mangoes… you get the idea.
Anyway, the star of our food haul has got to be these:
Aren’t they lovely? And so free! My very generous and food-loving uncle and aunt have a Meyer lemon tree in their backyard. Every time I say that sentence it gives me little jealousy pangs. Do you know how much a Meyer lemon costs in Montreal? Ahem. Two dollars and fifty cents. For one lemon. If you can even find one in this city, which is rare as these guys don’t transport all that well. Count the lemons in that bag. Do the math. And the ones I can find around here aren’t even fresh. Or big. They’re puny, wizened little things. These lemons are bursting with juice and flavour and scent. Owen and Gabrielle, thank you so much!
To prove we’re putting these lemons to good use, I offer you the following recipe. It’s from Amanda Hesser’s “Cooking for Mr. Latte,” which I find to be hit-or-miss. I’ve made a few stinkers from the book, but this one’s a definite hit. The peppery arugula and rich crème fraîche are livened up by a hit of herbal meyer lemon tang, and the sauce coats the pasta perfectly.
I suspect the above image isn’t beautiful, but I can’t tell because it just reminds me of the flavour of this pasta, which definitely was beautiful. Here’s the recipe.
MEYER LEMON CREME FRAICHE LINGUINE adapted from “Cooking For Mr. Latte” by Amanda Hesser
Cooking notes: mise-en-place is very important here. Make sure everything is prepped in advance, as this pasta cools down quickly and thus must be eaten immediately upon preparation. It makes a great first course. I can also imagine it going very well with chicken.
1 pound of linguine
a chunk of Parmesan (to be grated)
2 Meyer lemons
3 large handfuls of arugula, cleaned and roughly chopped
1/2 cup crème fraîche*
freshly ground black pepper
Bring water to boil in a large pot. When the water is boiling rapidly, add salt (generously) and then the pasta.
While the pasta cooks, grate a handful of parmesan into a large bowl and zest the two lemons into the bowl. Add the arugula to this bowl as well. Juice one of the lemons and reserve the juice**.
When the pasta is cooked (make sure it’s still al dente), quickly drain it and add it to the serving bowl that’s holding the cheese and lemon zest. Don’t worry about getting the pasta completely dry. It should be slicked with water, as that will help thin out the cheese and the thick crème fraîche to a tossable consistency. Next, add the lemon juice and toss again. Last, add the crème fraîche and continue to toss well, until the sauce is well-distributed, the arugula is wilted, the the cheese is melty. Grind some pepper into all this and toss once more. Serve immediately.
*crème fraîche is expensive! If you want to make your own, at a slightly better price and with the satisfaction of do-it-yourself, here’s a recipe. I confess I’ve never tried it, but it does sound nice and simple.
**Please don’t throw away the other lemon’s juice. If nothing else, you can boil it with water in a one-to-one ratio to make a great simple syrup to add to gin for a nice cocktail– more on this in a later post.
This post is a gift for my brothers and sister, who just moved into a new house. Today is their housewarming party, and I’m all the way across the country. Since I can’t attend, guys, I’m offering you this housewarming gift. Without Mom in your kitchen, I figure you might be eating more chips and soda, starburst candies, and um… raw potatoes (do you still eat raw potatoes?) than before, at least for a little while.
Here’s a recipe that will give you a break from the junk food. Carlo and I make this all the time and we still can’t believe so few ingredients can taste so good. The secret is in the long simmer, where the tomatoes slowly absorb the butter and the flavour of the onions, cooking down into a thick and rich sauce that’s just perfect on pasta with a generous sprinkling of parmesan on top. It’s amazing that just three things can make a sauce that tastes so good and feels so warm and filling. But there you are.
This simplicity is a good thing to remember, I think. You’re all taking care of yourselves now, and that’s a lot. I still sometimes have these panics where I think “my goodness, for the rest of my life I’m going to have to do this myself.” And there’s no way to take a break from life, it’s just going to keep coming at you. That’s why it’s nice to know that it doesn’t always have to be hard to take care of yourself. Pop this in a pot, boil some pasta, and in 45 minutes, sit down together and eat. You can do it! Happy housewarming! I guess maybe I’m going to have to stop calling you “the kids.”
I’m sorry about the not-so-beautiful photo. Trust me, even though it’s not beautiful, it’s delicious.
We got this recipe from Marcella Hazan’s Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking. We’ve adapted it so that its proportions match a large can of tomatoes (796 mL), but that’s about it. You can reduce the amount of butter in the sauce, which I always do. However, it always tastes best when Carlo makes it (he’s not careful with the butter).
TOMATO SAUCE WITH ONION AND BUTTER
1 can plum tomatoes (28 oz/796 mL, either diced or whole)
1/3 cup butter (you can be a little more generous or a little more sparing with this)
2 medium onions, peeled and cut in half
1 to 1 1/2 lbs. pasta (or whatever amount you happen to throw in the pot)
Parmesan cheese for serving
Put the tomatoes, the butter, the onions, and a generous pinch of salt in a saucepan. Bring the sauce to a gentle simmer over medium heat. Stir it occasionally, and mash the tomatoes up with your spoon. Cook the sauce for about 45 minutes (it should be at a light simmer this whole time) or until you start to see the butter and tomatoes separating from each other. When it’s done, taste it and add more salt if you need to. Take the pan off the heat and remove the onions. Serve it over pasta, with parmesan cheese on top.