Food & Drink

When life gives you lemons ... take advantage of these citrus recipes

Lots of flavor is hidden in the peel, too


After winter’s heady spices, citrus fruits are a palate-refreshing path to the lighter menus of spring.

These days, we enjoy access to abundant varieties of citrus fruits.

They aren’t simply oranges, they’re Valencia, Moro, Mandarin and Satsuma.

There are grapefruit, red and white, as well as the giant rosy-fleshed pomelo, less bitter than American grapefruit, but with a tougher rind. We have big green Persian limes as well as the tiny Key variety.

We also now have access to the vivid gold Meyer lemon, whose origins are said to be a crossing of a common lemon with a Mandarin orange. Whatever its heritage, the Meyer lemon brings an intoxicating fragrance and complex flavor to any dish, savory or sweet.

All this citrus bounty makes it easy to forget that not too long ago, the humblest lemons and oranges were considered scarce and precious. I try to use as much of the fruit as possible so that nothing goes to waste.

Lots of flavor is hidden away in citrus peel, yet it’s often thrown away.

Add the zest to a recipe, use it for garnish, or, store with equal amount of sea salt for an addictive new condiment.

In the frozen north, citrus season says it’s warm somewhere and assures us of better times ahead.

So, when life gives you lemons, I say, rejoice and head to the kitchen.

Lemon-Vanilla Pound Cake with Lavender Glaze


This sturdy finely crumbed cake never disappoints in flavor, nor is it tricky to prepare. The lavender glaze brings a slight herbaceous note that marries well with lemon’s brightness and the soft vanilla background. Use regular or Meyer lemons.

1 cup salted butter, softened

3 cups sugar

6 large eggs

2 tablespoons lemon zest, plus additional for garnish

1/2 cup fresh lemon juice

2 teaspoons vanilla bean paste (or vanilla extract)

3 cups all-purpose flour

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon baking soda

1 (8 ounce) container sour cream

Vegetable shortening

Lavender Glaze (see recipe below)


Hint: Lemon zest, when added directly to cake batter will sometimes clump or stick to the beaters of your mixer. I like to toss zest with a small amount of flour to prevent it from clumping.

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Grease and flour a 10-inch tube pan.

Beat butter until creamy, about 1 minute. Gradually add sugar, beating until light and fluffy, 3 to 5 minutes. Add eggs, 1 at a time, beating just until blended after each addition. Add lemon zest, fresh lemon juice and vanilla bean paste and stir until incorporated.

Stir together flour, salt and baking soda in a medium bowl. Add flour mixture to butter mixture alternately with sour cream, beginning and ending with the flour mixture. Beat at low speed just until blended after each addition. Pour batter into the greased and floured tube pan.

Bake in preheated oven until a tester inserted in the center comes out clean, about 1 hour and 15 minutes to 1 hour and 30 minutes. Cool in pan on a wire rack 10 minutes, then remove to a wire rack and cool completely, about 2 hours.

Spoon Lavender Glaze over cake. Garnish with lemon zest and lavender buds.

Lavender Glaze

This recipe calls for culinary lavender, which can be ordered from Frontier Co-op or found in many bulk foods departments. You’ll steep the lavender in milk. The good news is there will be leftover lavender milk. Store this in the refrigerator and use in coffee or hot black tea — especially Earl Grey.

1/2 cup whole milk

1 tablespoon dried lavender buds, plus extra for optional garnish

2 1/2 cups powdered sugar

Pinch of salt

1 tablespoon plus 1 to 2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice, divided

Bring 1/2 cup milk just to simmer in a small saucepan over medium heat. Remove from heat and stir in 1 tablespoon dried lavender. Let stand 10 minutes. Pour lavender milk through a fine wire-mesh strainer into bowl. Cool completely, about 20 minutes. Whisk together powdered sugar, salt, 2 tablespoons lavender milk and 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice. Whisk in up to 2 teaspoons lemon juice, 1 teaspoon at a time, until desired consistency. Recipe makes about 1 cup of glaze, with a little less than 1/2 cup lavender milk remaining.

Source: Adapted from Southern Living


Citrus Zest Salt


Once you make citrus zest salt, you’ll wonder what took you so long. I love it on chicken and fish, on cooked vegetables and in salads of all kinds.

Toss together equal portions of freshly grated lemon zest (lemon only or a combination of citrus) and sea salt. You may also use mineral salt or kosher salt, but not iodized table salt.


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For a finer texture, put this in a spice mill for a few seconds. Then store in a small glass or ceramic jar and keep in the refrigerator.

Source: Adapted from Patricia Wells


Microwave Citrus Curd


Lemon curd is most famously used to slather on scones, especially at tea time. I like to swirl it in hot oatmeal or sandwich between shortbread cookies. Use your imagination and whatever citrus fruits you have on hand. This recipes shortcuts the typical process of using a double-boiler and is perfect for someone who’s easily distracted or short on time.

1 cup citrus juice (single variety or a mixture)

1 cup sugar

3 eggs, well beaten

About 1 tablespoon of finely grated zest

1/2 cup butter, melted

Whisk the sugar and eggs in a microwave-safe bowl. (I like to use a 1 quart glass measuring cup.) Add juice, zest and butter. Cook in the microwave at 60% power, stopping every 60 seconds to stir with a wooden spoon. When the mixture coats the back of your spoon, it’s done (about 6 minutes, depending on the microwave’s power). Pour into a glass jar and store in the refrigerator.

Source: Adapted from


Lemon, Lime and Clementine Icebox Pie

Depending on where you grew up, you may know this dessert’s origins as Lemon Icebox Pie or Key Lime Pie. It’s the simple filling of fresh citrus juice, sweetened condensed milk and egg yolks in a cookie crust. Combining more than one type of citrus lets their flavors shine as each adds a different note.

1/2 cup freshly squeezed juice from lemon, lime and Clementine orange. This is about 2 lemons, half a big lime and 1 Clementine to yield 1/2 cup.

Zest from the above fruit

3 egg yolks

pinch of salt

1 can sweetened condensed milk

Vanilla wafer or graham cracker pie crust (homemade or store bought)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Zest the fruit. Juice the citrus, taking care to remove any seeds. Place zest and fruit in a mixing bowl. Add 2 egg yolks and stir with a whisk until egg and juice are fully incorporated. Add salt and sweetened condensed milk, whisking well.

Pour into the pie crust. Put the pie on a sturdy baking sheet and bake in the middle of the oven for 15 minutes. Remove and let cool, then refrigerate. Pie will firm as it cools. Serve with whipped cream.


Preserved Lemons


You’ll find many uses for this Moroccan style condiment. Mix with olive oil and toss on green beans, broccoli or asparagus. Add to soft goat cheese for bruschetta. Enhance hummus and pasta. Mix with chopped parsley and toss on a freshly roasted chicken.

2 lemons (use regular or Meyer lemons)

1/3 cup sea salt (not iodized table salt)

1/2 cup fresh lemon juice (from 3 to 4 fruit)

one small glass jar with a lid


Wash and dry the lemons. Slice each lengthwise into wedges. Mix lemons, juice and salt in a glass or ceramic bowl. Pack fruit in the glass jar, pressing down with a wooden spoon so they’ll fit. Add any remaining salt and lemon juice from the bowl. Close the lid and let the lemons sit out for 2 days. Then store in the refrigerator. They’ll be ready to use in 2 weeks. Remove a portion of lemon and mince finely for use in recipes or as a garnish.

Source: Adapted from Patricia Wells


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