Avgolemeno – Greek egg-lemon soup
This Greek specialty is also served in the Middle East and parts of North Africa.
- 4 cups chicken broth
- 1/3 cup uncooked white rice
- 2 eggs
- ¼ cup lemon juice
- salt, pepper and cayenne to taste
- Bring broth to a boil in a large saucepan and add the rice.
- Cook until rice is just cooked through, about 17 minutes
- Meanwhile, in a medium bowl, whisk the eggs and lemon juice until smooth
- Ladle half a cup of the hot broth into the egg mixture, whisking constantly. Slowly pour the mixture back into the remaining stock, whisking constantly
- Cook, stirring constantly, over low heat until soup becomes opaque and slightly thickened, a few minutes. Do not let it boil or eggs will scramble.
- Season with salt, pepper and cayenne, if you wish. Serve soup hot, garnished with chopped parsley or fresh mint and lemon slices.
Lemony lentil soup with spinach–Shorbet Adds bil Hamud
I adapted this recipe from The New Book of Middle Eastern Food, by Claudia Roden, who writes: “This is a very famous and very tasty Lebanese soup made with large brown lentils.” You could substitute chard, kale or other greens for the spinach, adjusting cooking time as necessary.
- 1 large onion, chopped
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
- 1 cup large brown or green lentils, washed
- 2 medium potatoes, diced
- 2 quarts water or chicken stock
- between ½ to 1 pound fresh spinach
- ¼ cup chopped cilantro
- Salt and pepper
- Juice of 1 ½ lemons, or more
- In a large pan, sauté the onions until soft and golden. Add the garlic and stir until it begins to color. Add the lentils and potatoes, and the water or stock and simmer for 25 minutes, or until the lentils are tender.
- Wash the spinach, cut into ribbons and add to the soup, stirring until just cooked.
- Add cilantro to the soup and season with salt and pepper. Stir well and add water, if necessary, if you wish a lighter consistency.
- Cook a minute or two more and add lemons to taste (it should be nice and tangy) just before serving.
Ceviche is thought to be an indigenous Peruvian dish, which must have developed after Columbus brought citrus to the New World. The acid of lemon or lime juice can be used to marinate fish for ceviche—the result alters the protein in a process called ‘denaturing’, which has a similar effect to cooking. On Magellan’s voyage, the traveler Pigafetta described such a process among cannibals in the Moluccas, who ‘eat no other part of the human body but the heart, uncooked but seasoned with the juice of oranges and lemons’.
Always use the freshest fish possible, and make the same day you purchase the fish. This can also be made with scallops or shrimp. Be sure not to leave the fish in the lemon juice more than a few hours or it may become overly soft and mushy. Some like to add chile peppers, tomatoes, cucumber or avocado to the finished dish.
- 1/2 pound of firm, fresh red snapper, sea bass, halibut (or other firm-fleshed fish), cut into 1/2 inch pieces
- 1/4 cup of fresh squeezed lemon juice
- 2 tablespoons of fresh squeezed lemon juice
- 2 minced scallions, or 2 tablespoons minced red onion
- 2 tablespoons cilantro
- Place the fish and the scallions in a bowl with the scallions and the lemon and lime juices. Cover and refrigerate, stirring from time to time, making sure all the fish is exposed to the acidic lemon and lime juice.
- As the fish marinates it will change from translucent to opaque, whitish color. It is ready when it is opaque, about two hours.
- Salt to taste, sprinkle with minced cilantro and serve. It can be served with tortilla chips as an appetizer or with heated tortillas and avocado slices for ceviche tacos.
Roast chicken with lemons
A very simple way to add delicious flavor to a roast chicken is simply put lemons inside a chicken as it’s roasting. There are dozens of theories about how to roast a chicken, including those who insist on very high heat, but my favorite is the slow-roast method in Laurie Colwin’s More Home Cooking. It’s very simple, as long as you plan ahead because it will take 2 ½ to 3 hours before your chicken is roasted, tender and juicy. As Laurie Colwin says, the whole secret is roasting at a low temperature.
- Preheat the oven to 300 degrees Farenheit.
- Take a washed lemon or two (depending on the size of the lemons and the chicken), prick with a fork to let out the juices (or cut the lemons in half) and stuff them inside the chicken’s cavity. If you like, you can also stuff herbs such as rosemary sprigs inside as well. Rub the chicken skin with olive oil and sprinkle with salt, pepper and paprika. Baste the chicken often with the juices. It’s ready when the skin is crispy and the meat is nearly falling off the bone.
- When it comes out of the oven, let it rest for 10 or 15 minutes, then cut, slice, and squeeze lemon juice on top of the meat.
Slow roast chicken with garlic and lemons
Another great slow-roast chicken with lemons was inspired by Nigella Lawson. Over time I’ve changed so many things that I guess it’s my recipe now, with many thanks, of course, to Nigella.
This is another one of those recipes blessed by the magic of time. Just plan ahead — because this dish will also be in the oven for about 2 1/2 hours!
- 2 pounds of boneless chicken thighs (skinless are fine)
- one head of garlic
- 2 large (or 3 medium) Meyer lemons (regular ones will work if you don’t have the Meyers)
- 3 tablespoons olive oil
- 1-2 tablespoons of fresh thyme leaves or rosemary
- salt and pepper
- 3/4 cup white wine
- Preheat the oven to 300
- Place the chicken in a Dutch oven or casserole, along with 10 or more cloves of garlic (you don’t have to peel and it would be fine to use the whole head of garlic), some fresh thyme or rosemary and the two Meyer lemons, cut into chunky eighths, seeds removed.
- Salt and pepper the chicken, pour 3 tablespoons of olive oil over everything and mix it all up (Nigella says to use your hands to mix it all up, which I do, washing them VERY thoroughly afterwards) so the oil coats everything.
- Pour 3/4 cup of white wine over all of this ( I’m sure that broth would work too), and cover with a lid (if you’re using a baking dish, cover with aluminum foil). Put in the oven to cook for 2 hours.
- Now, turn up the oven to 400 degrees, add 1/4 cup of lemon juice (and if you like it with more liquid, add more lemon juice, wine or water) and move the lemon pieces to the top so they’ll get a little brown along the edges, about 15 to 20 minutes.
- Serve with rice, bulghur, mashed potatoes, or what have you for starch. Plus a salad or vegetable would be a good idea. Any leftover chicken (and lemon and garlic) is delicious stuffed into pita bread, with fresh chopped cucumber, green onion, cilantro, tomato….. and topped with a yogurt-cilantro sauce!
This is a quick and tasty dinner to make, served with a side of vegetables and some crusty bread to soak up the sauce. Be sure to slice the lemons as thinly as possible so the peel will soften as it cooks. Sicilian capers, packed in salt, are special, but any capers will give you that special Mediterranean flavor. This recipe serves 2 and can easily be doubled.
- Two medium-size lemons
- 2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, about ¾ pound
- salt and pepper
- 2 Tablespoons olive oil
- 1 small garlic clove, chopped fine
- ½ cup chicken broth
- 1 Tablespoon capers
- 1 ½ Tablespoon butter, softened
- 1 Tablespoon parsley, minced
- Heat the oven to 200 degrees and put a heatproof plate on a middle rack
- Cut the ends off one of the lemons and cut into very thin slices; then cut the slices in half to make half-rounds. Zest the remaining lemon, then squeeze the juice and reserve both juice and grated zest.
- Slice each chicken breast in half horizontally so you have four thin cutlets. Sprinkle salt and pepper on both sides of each cutlet. Put flour on a large plate and roll each cutlet in the flour to coat both sides.
- Heat a heavy skillet on medium high, and add one or two tablespoons of oil. Take two of the cutlets and sauté on both sides until each side is brown, about three minutes. Remove the browned cutlets to the plate in the oven and repeat with the other two cutlets.
- Add the chopped garlic to the skillet until fragrant, then add the chicken broth and the lemon slices. Increase the heat to high and stir with a wooden spoon, scraping the browned bits from the bottom of the skillet. Simmer until the liquid is reduced by about half.
- Add the lemon juice, zest and capers to the skillet and simmer again until the sauce is reduced to about ¼ cup. Remove the pan from the heat and add the butter, stirring until it melts and the sauce is thickened. Sprinkle the sauce with parsley. To serve, place the chicken cutlets on plates and spoon the sauce over them.
Lemon Basil Linguine
The lemon-olive oil-Parmeggiano pasta recipe is a classic, though I’ve added some capers which I think go very well. One cookbook for inspiration was Nigel Slater, who writes, “Few sights lift the spirits like a crate of lemons with their glossy leaves intact. Lemons are as much a part of the kitchen as pepper and salt.”
Rosemary, parsley or other herbs could take the place of basil, and you can add sautéed greens (kale, chard, etc.) with minced garlic to the dish as well. Or leave out the capers. Or add some chicken or shrimp or scallops. Or make the dish with spaghetti or fettucine rather than linguine. Some people make lemon pasta with cream instead of oil. I prefer the sharp pungency of the lemon with olive oil (a classic combination if there ever was one). This recipe serves 2 and can be doubled.
- 1/2 pound of linguine
- grated lemon zest from one lemon (about 1 tablespoon)
- 1/3 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
- 1/4 cup olive oil
- 1 tablespoon capers
- 1/4 to 1/2 cup grated Parmeggiano Reggiano cheese
- handful of basil leaves, torn into small pieces
- salt and pepper
- Bring a big pot of salted water to the boil and cook the linguine until done al dente (7 or 8 minutes).
- Meanwhile, gently warm the olive oil, lemon juice, and lemon zest in a small pan and whisk till emulsified.
- Drain the linguine, reserving about 1/3 cup of the cooking water
- Pour the oil-lemon sauce into the pasta pot, add the cooked linguine, the capers, basil and cheese and a couple tablespoons of cooking water and toss, toss, toss everything together until each strand is coated evenly with the sauce. Serve immediately, with more grated Parmeggiano to serve on top.
This risotto is similar in taste to the Greek avgolemono rice soup thickened with egg and lemon. It’s rich and creamy, a delicious accompaniment to grilled fish, broccoli rabe or other green vegetables. Serves 4.
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 ¼ cup onion, chopped
- 2 cups Arborio rice
- 6 cups light chicken or vegetable stock, heated
- 2 teaspoons salt and ½ teaspoon black pepper
- 2 tablespoons grated lemon zest
- ½ cup lemon juice
- 2 eggs
- 2 tablespoons chilled unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
- Heat oil in a large heavy-bottomed saucepan or Dutch oven, add onion and sauté until light golden.
- Stir in the rice, coating all the grains with the oil.
- Stir in the hot stock a cup or so at a time, stirring the simmering mixture until the rice has nearly absorbed all the stock, then add the lemon zest, salt and pepper and more of the stock. Continue adding the stock until it is gone but not fully absorbed (the mixture should be soupy), about 20 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat.
- In a small bowl, whisk together the lemon juice, eggs and butter pieces. Whisk in a small amount, about ½ cup, of the rice mixture into the egg mixture to temper, then pour the egg mixture into the rice mixture, stirring constantly.
- Return the pan to low heat and cook stirring constantly to prevent curdling until the rice is thick and creamy – just another minute or so. Adjust salt and pepper to taste.
Tuna salad with green beans and lemon
I started making this salad when we were staying at an agriturismo in a lemon orchard in Sicily, Il Limoneto. There was an extraordinary view of both the Mediterranean and Mount Etna from our perch. It was a long walk down and back up a hill to get supplies, but the wonderful canned tuna in olive oil, marinated artichoke hearts and fresh vegetables, proved an inspiration. Of course, we had all the fresh lemons we wanted! I’ve made many variations of this salad since, and you can substitute just about everything besides the tuna and lemon (often I use cooked bulgur in place of potatoes).
Be sure to wait until you’re ready to eat before adding the green beans to your salad. If you mix lemon juice and green beans too soon, the acidic lemon juice will react with chlorophyll to turn the vivid green of the beans to an olive color. Makes 2 to 4 servings
- 3 or 4 small red potatoes or Yukon Gold potatoes
- ½ pound green beans
- 1 6-ounce can of solid white albacore tuna in olive oil
- 1 6.5 –ounce jar artichoke hearts in oil
- 4 green onions
- 2 to 3 Tablespoons of chopped fresh herbs, such as basil, cilantro or parsley
- grated zest of one lemon
- ¼ cup or more of freshly squeezed lemon juice
- salt and pepper to taste
- optional: peeled lemon or Meyer lemon (with peel) or ½ a preserved lemon, chopped in small pieces
- Cook the potatoes in a large saucepan of salted water that is just below the boil until they are tender but still firm; let cool and chop into bite-size pieces
- Snip off the ends of the green beans and cook them in a large pan of boiling water until they are just tender, then plunge the beans into a bowl of cold water to stop the cooking. 2. Do not overcook. Drain the beans and cut them on a diagonal into ½ inch pieces; set aside.
- Cut each artichoke heart in quarters (reserving the oil for another purpose); cut the ends off the green onions and chop finely, using both white and green parts.
- In a large bowl, mix the tuna, along with the oil in the can, with the potatoes, herbs, artichoke hearts and onions, lemon zest and rind and lemon pieces if you are using them. Add salt and pepper and taste for the seasoning, adding more lemon juice, herbs or salt and pepper as you wish.
- Just before you’re ready to eat, toss the salad with the green beans. Serve the salad on a bed of lettuce or greens, accompanied by fresh bread or crackers.