Lemons are the Perfect Addition to a Summer Menu
As temperatures rise and the novelty of the summer heat starts to wear off, the search for lighter foods becomes all consuming. Cold soups and salads are summer staples but, for me, if a dish isn’t lemony, it isn’t summery. From lemonade to lemon meringue pie, from lemon-based salad dressing to lemon-flavored Italian ices, the tart, unique, refreshing taste of lemons is synonymous with summer, and a cooking prerequisite for the hot summer months.
The Delicious AND Healthy Lemon
Lemons are known to have numerous health benefits (they are an important source of Vitamin C), as well as being delicious and invigorating. Due to their high potassium levels, lemons help control blood pressure and they also help prevent the formation of kidney stones. They are rich in antioxidants, and have numerous anti-ageing and anti-inflammatory properties. These qualities make lemons a wonderful and beneficial fruit all year round; but it is their zing and freshness that make them particularly suited for the summer.
A Little Lemon Goes a Long Way
With a myriad of dishes, one squeeze of lemon makes all the difference. Think about what a few drops can do to salmon or how lemon juice can upgrade a dish of hummus. Lemon flavoring – from either the juice or the zest – is in a league with salt and pepper in terms of elevating recipes to a higher level. (Zest is derived by scraping, grating, or cutting from the lemon’s outer, colorful skin – and being careful not to dig down to the white part.) Lemon juice can be the difference between average and amazing – imagine a tall glass of iced tea without lemon juice and you’ll know what I’m talking about. Lemons can be used across the spectrum of the meal – from appetizers and soups, to fish and poultry entrees, and, of course, desserts. Squeeze lemon over a salad along with a bit of olive oil and your fresh veggies are transformed; brush grilled lamb kabobs with lemon juice and the flavor will pop in your mouth.
Lemon and Chicken: A Natural Pairing
As the summer drags on, the versatile lemon adds a nice, fresh taste to chicken and meat. Here, the lemon adds pizzazz but doesn’t overwhelm the dish, so that the great chicken flavor still shines. The following recipe calls for only a few ingredients, keeping it quick and easy, another important factor in light summer cooking.
Lemony Pan- Grilled Chicken Breast
- 4 skinned and boned chicken breasts, halved (8 pieces), and flattened
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 teaspoon pepper
- 1/3 cup all-purpose flour
- 4 tablespoons olive oil, divided
- 1/4 cup chicken broth
- 1/4 cup lemon juice
- 8 lemon slices
- 1/4 cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
- Sprinkle chicken with salt and pepper. Lightly dredge chicken in flour, and shake off excess.
- Heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Sautee four chicken breasts, for 2-3 minutes on each side, until golden brown and cooked through. Transfer chicken to a serving platter, and repeat, using the remaining olive oil and chicken.
- To the same pan, add broth and lemon juice, and cook 1 to 2 minutes or until sauce is slightly thickened, while scraping particles from bottom of skillet. Add the lemon slices.
- Remove skillet from heat and stir parsley into sauce. Pour over chicken and serve immediately.
Lemons Are Perfect for Rounding Out a Meal
Light and airy lemon-based desserts, with that inimitable sweet-tangy balance, are irresistible. Lemon curd (I don’t love the name but I love the flavor) is the basis for this scrumptious mousse that is the perfect ending to a summer meal.
Lemon Curd Mousse
- 1¼ cups sugar
- 2 teaspoons cornstarch
- 2 whole eggs
- 2 large egg yolks
- ½ cup fresh lemon juice
- 6 Tablespoons butter, in cubes
- ½ pint (or 1 cup) whipping cream
- 6 Tablespoons blueberries or other summer berries
- Whisk together the sugar and the cornstarch in a large saucepan. Add the eggs and yolks, together with the lemon juice, and whisk well.
- Add the cubed butter to the mixture and set over medium heat. Whisk constantly until the butter melts and the mixture thickens and comes to a slow boil, about 10 minutes.
- Remove from heat and transfer to a bowl. (This is the lemon curd). Press plastic wrap onto the top of the curd to prevent a skin from forming. Chill at least 2-3 hours.
- Whip the heavy cream until stiff peaks form. Reserve 6 Tablespoons of the whipped cream for topping.
- Gently fold half of the well-chilled lemon curd into the whipped cream. (This is the mousse.)
- Divide the remaining lemon curd among six individual glass serving dishes or small jars (glass shows off the layers), spreading an even layer over the bottom of each dish.
- Using a pastry bag or a spoon, layer the mousse over the lemon curd, dividing evenly among the dishes.
- Top each dish of mousse with about a tablespoon of the reserved whipped cream.
- Sprinkle each dish with a few berries. Serve chilled.
Sun-Bright Lemons for Sun-Filled Days
The beauty of the lemon is that it can give ordinary foods a boost all year ‘round; but it is without a doubt particularly welcome and appropriate in the summer months. If “How do I keep it fresh and light?” is the universal question during July and August, the zesty, tangy lemon, in a varieties of recipes, is the unambiguously refreshing answer.