When Life Gives You Meyer Lemon, Make Pesto

Lemon pesto on pasta is downright divine. You can eat a big bowl of pasta while enjoying the refreshing aura of citrus flavor.

What makes it pesto? It contains pine nuts, just like basil pesto, as well as garlic an Parmesan cheese.

Meyer lemon pesto with pasta and basil.
Pasta happiness: Meyer lemon pesto, spaghetti, chèvre and basil.

Before I tell you how I came to make lemon pesto, courtesy of a Pinterest search and a Tasty Kitchen recipe, I want to tell you why I find lemons so romantic.

Shortly after my boyfriend of several years started dating, we walked around his yard and he showed me where he thought about planting trees, shrubs or flowers. In the side yard where he considered planting vegetables, I asked about a little plant, maybe 18 inches high. He did not know what it was. Well, it was a Meyer lemon tree that grew and grew and grew.

It grew so big, that at one point it toppled over under its own weight during a massive rainstorm. But that moment when we first examined it and wondered, Byron found a ladybug on one of the tree’s leaves. I told him it was good luck to find a ladybug. Now, I associate the Meyer lemons with good luck.

We have found many uses for all the lemon juice. It is wonderful for deglazing a pan or marinating chicken. What surprised me was our lemon juice wasn’t great for baking.

At least that was the case with the juice from our first couple of Meyer lemon harvests. I’m going to try again. I started keeping an eye out on Pinterest for savory lemon recipes in addition to lemon desserts.

I have always loved lemon cake and always asked for one for my childhood birthday parties. It became a running joke during family slide shows if one of my birthday parties popped up for my sisters to bemoan yet another lemon cake. My mom even ordered a lemon cake from a local bakery in my college town for my 21st birthday.

I was totally intrigued by the lemon pesto idea. Why not? Lemon piccata chicken tastes great with a side of pasta. Now, I will insist you try this with a real Meyer lemon, not anything else.

Ingredients (based on the Tasty Kitchen recipe linked above)

  • 1 Meyer lemon
  • 1 garlic clove
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • ¼ cup shredded Parmesan
  • ¼ cup pine nuts (or a little bit more)
  • ½ teaspoon honey (I used my honey dipper to place a bit more)

(I also had fresh basil and goat cheese on hand to add to the dish.)

To prepare the pesto, I simply placed the ingredients in my old Cuisinart food processor. But before placing in the lemon, I also had slice the tips off, quartered it and removed the seeds. I hit pulse, saw that it was nicely mixing and let her rip. Voila, lemon pesto.

I cooked a pound of spaghetti and tossed it with half of the pesto. That was just the right amount. The pasta was served with chevre goat cheese and basil. The leftovers were delicious too. The pesto was originally made Saturday night. Tuesday night, I pulled it out of the fridge and tossed it with bucatini. Again, I added chevre and some drizzles of olive oil.Meyer lemon pesto with pasta and basil.

To finish it, I sprinkled in more Parmesan, basil leaves, red pepper flakes and salt and pepper. Once again, I’ll have lemon pesto pasta leftovers and look forward to eating it on my birthday!

Meyer Lemon Chicken Salad

Why buy chicken salad from the store when it is easy to make it yourself? When it comes to anything with mayonnaise, such as tuna or chicken salad and potato salads, I prefer to make it myself. This chicken salad recipe incorporates something from our garden: Meyer lemon juice.

Just a small part of the Meyer lemon harvest
Just a small part of the Meyer lemon harvest

When the lemons are ready, we are overwhelmed with lemons. I give many away and am still overstocked. The solution is to squeeze most of them and freeze the juice in small containers. This way, I have a year-round supply of Meyer lemon juice. And a lot of it. Here are the basic ingredients, to which you can add or subtract. (For instance, some people cannot eat raw red onion.)

  • 1 cup Meyer lemon juice
  • three chicken breasts
  • celery (a few stalks for the poaching liquid & a few for the salad)
  • spices for poaching liquid: handful of pink peppercorns, handful of dried thyme, a bay leaf or two. Anything else you like.
  • 1/4 cup red onion, diced
  • 2 tablespoons (at least) of chopped, fresh parsley
  • Mayonnaise (I prefer Duke’s or Blue Plate)
  • Tabasco sauce
  • tablespoon or two of fresh Meyer lemon juice
  • salt and pepper, to taste
The finished chicken salad
The finished chicken salad

To Make: First of all, I don’t do everything at once. For example, I was hosting a ladies lunch on a Saturday, so I poached the chicken Friday night and put it in the fridge overnight. In the morning, I placed the cooked chicken on a cutting board and sliced, then diced it before placing in a large mixing bowl. To get started, fill a large pot about two-thirds. Pour in lemon juice and add celery, bay leaves and spices. Bring to a boil and place chicken breasts into the rolling boil. Keep it relatively high heat and cook for 3-5 minutes. Turn off the heat, cover and let sit for 15 minutes. Then, remove the chicken with tongs and place in a Tupperware or similar storage container and place in fridge overnight. Discard celery and bay leaves, and pour spicy, lemon water down drain. It may even deodorize your disposal! When you are ready to make the chicken salad, place the diced chicken in the bowl and add the diced red onion, freshly diced celery stalks and freshly chopped parsley. Place about a tablespoon of Dijon mustard in the bowl and about a quarter-cup of mayonnaise. Sprinkle or grind on salt and pepper. Stir it all together with a big spatula until really well combined. Cover bowl and let it sit in the refrigerator for a few hours before serving. The serving options are endless. I baked crescent rolls and also had a loaf of store-bought Sourdough bread on hand. The guests were choosing both options. The other fun thing about chicken salad is you can add or substitute ingredients, such as slivered almonds and/or red grape halves. A wonderful accompaniment to chicken salad sandwiches is fruit salad.

watermelon
Cutting up watermelon for fruit salad

For this ladies lunch, I served two different fruit salads: one was watermelon, pineapple and cantaloupe, and the second one was raspberries, strawberries and blueberries. Rather than put all the fruits in one bowl, I gave the option for the guests of taking either or both. Some people cannot eat seeds, so you want to keep certain berries out of the fruit salad. Another nice thing to serve at a gathering like this is pasta salad.

Velata garden dill
Velata garden dill artisan spice rub goes well with pasta salad

I had made one the night before with orecchiette (little round pasta), chopped arugula, diced red pepper and a dressing that was half Meyer lemon juice and half olive oil. The added special ingredient was a garden dill artisan spice mix. It tasted great the next day. I love entertaining by giving my guests delicious, fresh and colorful foods. I also love being able to do so in a way that doesn’t involve extensive work. Instead, we got to enjoy girls time, eat yummy food and drink Prosecco! I hope you like the Meyer lemon juice poaching idea and the ease of this chicken salad recipe.

Cheers,

The Sage Leopard

Stave off Wintertime Blues by Keeping Things Green

The Sage Leopard is very lucky to enjoy a big backyard that is home to herbs, citrus trees and native and drought tolerate plants, including Texas Sage and lantana. In southeast Texas, we are either inundated with rains or suffering in drought conditions. All the while, my cooking sage thrives in the garden, rain or shine.

gathering up the sage
gathering up the sage

At a certain point, it will brown and shrivel. I recently received an herb keeper as a gift, which is like an ice cube tray but made of silicone instead of hard plastic. I gathered up the sage from its pot on the patio to keep as much as possible. I washed and dried it, then chopped it with herb scissors. I placed about two tablespoons per cube in four cubes of the tray. This being the inaugural use of the herb tray, I opted to fill two of the sage-laden cubes with olive oil and the remaining two with melted butter. Into the freezer the tray went, resting on top of an ice cube tray with frozen Chardonnay (leftover from a Labor Day beach weekend box o’ wine) and next to our stash of Meyer lemon juice. We have a Meyer lemon tree that provides a prolific amount of juice. choppedsageAs for the olive oil in the herb tray, I used the basic one for cooking, not the high-end one for salads. Sage is a powerful herb for cooking and should be used in relatively small amounts compared to basil and parsley. It also needs to be received by a food strong enough to stand up to it, such as a pork loin roast. Another wonderful companion for sage are butter beans. I start by sautéing thinly sliced garlic in a saucepan with a little butter and olive oil. I fold in some sliced sage and make sure it is fully moistened. Meanwhile, open a can of butter beans and empty them into a colander in the sink to give them a nice rinse.

The Sage Leopard sits while dove watching with sage pot on patio in foreground
The Sage Leopard sits while dove watching with sage pot on patio in foreground

Place the washed beans in the saucepan, add salt and pepper, stir, cover and cook on low about 10 minutes. For a roast, place the sage and butter (or oil) with garlic in a Dutch over and sauté. Add the meat, browning on add sides on the stovetop before placing in the oven to roast. Now that I have preserved ready-to-go sage cooking cubes in the freezer, I am really prepared for at least four lovely sage dishes this winter. Plus, by cutting back the sage plant a lot, I have likely ensured that the plant will fully regrow with many more sage leaves.