Whole lemon cookery


Using a lemon only for its juice is a big waste. The whole fruit is edible, including the nutritious pith and the pulp, rich in fiber. Lemon zest is worth its weight in gold, and when I think about how much zest gets tossed, it makes me sad. How many meals could have been brightened? How many cookies pushed over the edge to greatness? I wouldn’t fault anyone for straining out the seeds or cutting off the tips of the stem and blossom ends. But I’ve been putting everything else in the blender. The result is a foamy lemon emulsion that solves culinary problems I didn’t even know I had.

Blended lemon is like an enhanced form of lemon juice. It’s thicker, with a broader spectrum of lemon flavor. Like lemon juice, this lemon foam is equally at home in savory and sweet contexts. Mixed with enough sugar, the bitter notes are sedated, the sour notes are activated, and the zest is elevated. Lately, I’ve been messing around with lemony no-bake treats like a lemon foam whipped cream that seems to disappear as fast as I can make it.

Did you know that you can make whipped cream in a Mason jar? I fill a pint-sized jar a quarter full with heavy cream and shake it for about three minutes until it’s whipped, stiff peaks and all. I then add a teaspoon of lemon foam — already sweetened to the point where I can’t stop eating it — and shake some more. It gets even thicker, while the bitter, sour, zesty and sweet flavors are softly embraced and absorbed by the cream, making for a thick treat straight off the spoon.

I’ve discovered that one of the best uses of blended lemon foam is as a marinade. The lemon oil penetrates and flavors deeply, making any meat, even a lusty elk steak, taste curiously white. So, it’s no surprise that chicken, the whitest of white meats, excels the most in my citrus emulsion. I like to marinate chunks of chicken overnight in lemon foam, garlic, olive oil and seasonings. The next day, I fry the chicken on high heat with parsley and onion.

I chose my chicken seasonings based on the contents of a jar of spicy preserved lemons that was gifted to me by my friend Nifer. Those lemons are also whole, including all the guts and skin that are normally tossed. I can taste that whole-lemon flavor in the preserved lemons, underneath Nifer’s array of spices. I tried to copy those spices for my chicken marinade. I came up with coriander, cinnamon and sesame seeds. I don’t know if this is the same mixture that’s in that unmarked jar of lemons, but it’s a good mix, nonetheless.

This dish will inspire expletives of joy as the glorious cubes of chicken explode nonviolently in your mouth. My kids’ praise for blended-lemon chicken is through the roof. It has inspired enthusiastic displays of interpretive dance and is officially better than hot dogs or mac and cheese — with more fruits and vegetables.


Blended-lemon chicken

You’ll need a lightweight omelet pan with a long handle and a tight-fitting lid. If you don’t have one, you should get one anyway. Don’t be afraid to add lots of parsley. It will probably all get eaten.

  • 1 pound of chicken breast
  • (about two breasts)
  • 3 lemons
  • 4 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 cloves garlic, grated, mashed
  • or pressed
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 2 teaspoons whole coriander
  • seeds
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 tablespoon sesame seeds
  • 1 bunch parsley, chopped
  • 1 medium onion, chopped

Wash the lemons. Remove the brown nubs at the stem ends, then slice the lemons into quarters. Squeeze the slices through a strainer to remove the seeds, then add the juice to a blender, along with the squeezed lemon slices. Add up to a cup of water if necessary to get the blender to properly vortex. Congratulations on your blended lemon foam.

Cut the chicken into 1-inch cubes and add them to a bowl with a tablespoon or two of blended lemon, along with half of the olive oil, garlic, salt, pepper, sugar, coriander, cinnamon and sesame seeds. Marinate for a few hours or overnight.

Add the remaining oil to an omelet pan set on medium-high heat. When the oil is hot enough to sputter, add the chicken cubes one by one, spaced out so they aren’t touching each other. Put the lid on to contain the splatter. (If you have a kitchen hood, turn it on high.)

Let the chicken cook like that for two or so minutes. You shouldn’t smell burning. If you do, proceed immediately to the next step.

With your hands on the lid and handle, shake the chicken around. Pause. Add the parsley. Cover and shake again. Finally, add the onion, which will immediately release moisture. Cover, shake and cook for another minute. Turn off the heat while the onions still have some body. Serve with all the tasty bits from the pan.


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