Tag: Meyer lemon

Scents of the South: Hickory, Mr. Pibb and Satsuma

If an ex-pat spent his or her whole adult life overseas, they would still be an American. I will always be a Yankee, I suppose, although as the pains of middle age overtake me (hello, sciatica!), I have spent more years below than above the Mason-Dixon line. My first forays were childhood visits to South Carolina, which seemed so mythical all wrapped up in warmth and Spanish moss.

My paternal grandparents lived in Sumter, S.C., across from a lake full of Cypress trees and home to alligators. Their backyard was perfumed by a huge hickory tree. Nothing like this existed in my hometown, Montclair, New Jersey, and I considered it all to be marvelous.

Swan Lake in Sumter, South Carolina

Sumter, South Carolina

They had a carport too, which was novel to me, with a utility room off to the side where Granddaddy kept a fridge full of Mr. Pibb. I don’t think that particular soda was available up north because Dr Pepper was. I loved Mr. Pibb, probably just because my grandfather did.

Granddaddy was even more Yankee than his son and grandkids because he was born in Montreal and didn’t move to New Jersey until middle school. The child of Scottish immigrants, he was bilingual in French and English, and his new classmates were amazed he spoke English so well. He found that rather amusing.

Decades later, after 40-odd years in South Carolina (he lived to 88), Granddaddy still pronounced the words out and about as if they rhymed with boat. I guess you can take the kid out of Canada, but not the Canadian accent out of the man.

He absolutely loved to read the papers and would get up early to sit on his screened back porch with coffee. One thing I dislike about living in Houston is this part of Texas is so hot and humid most of the year that sitting on a screened porch is less than ideal. Funny thing, though, I remember some scorchers visiting Sumter in the summer.

I went to college at Washington and Lee University in Lexington, Virginia, where the weather was a happy medium between frigid N.J. winters and blazing hot environs further south. I remembered hearing that Southerners supposedly drank Cokes in lieu of coffee on hot mornings and gave that a try once with an egg sandwich before class. Gross. Come to think of it, I didn’t see anyone else get a Coke with breakfast. My strongest scent memory of Lexington is honeysuckle, which would erupt and envelope the landscape. I returned this spring for a reunion and the landscape seemed frozen in time, especially nearby Goshen Pass, where my parents met in 1960 on the Maury River. Once you are steeped in such spaces, they stay with you and often call on you to return.

Goshen Pass on the Maury River, Rockbridge Baths, Virginia

Maury River in Virginia

I’m going to skip in this blog over my time in Baltimore and Washington, D.C., because I just don’t really consider those to be in “The South.” (Feel free to debate this and yes, I know there were Confederate sympathizers in Balto., but still, it is its own category. I called it “the forgotten city” because its historical importance seemed to have faded from the collective American consciousness. I highly recommend visiting. The people are awesome (“hey hon”), the architecture is beautiful, the food is amazing and the museums are cool. But, I digress.).

Here in Texas, there is something special you cannot grow up north. We have a citrus grove with Meyer lemons, Satsuma and grapefruit trees. Sadly, our lime tree does not bear fruit after a bitter freeze one year. Growing your own Meyer lemons is deeply satisfying, especially since it doesn’t take much effort. This tree grows like a weed and must be cut back from time to time.

Fruit hanging from a Satsuma tree in Houston

Our Satsuma’s fruit

One year, it was so heavily laden with fruit, it fell over during a torrential rain. We propped it back up and it healed. The winter after it sat in Hurricane Harvey floodwater, it didn’t look so good. But that was last year and now it’s completed its comeback. So, tonight, I am going to back salmon in olive oil with Meyer lemons and Satsuma from the side yard. And this is one of the many wonderful things about living in the South.

You just gotta stop and smell the citrus!

The Sage Leopard

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!

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.