When Life Gives You Lemons
By Bonnie Fishman / San Francisco Bay Area
Oh, boy, does this ever have a double meaning in this day and age! Figuratively speaking, the adage “When life gives you lemons, make lemonade” has been my motto for decades. You never know what cards you will be dealt. But many people have found the pandemic an unexpectedly good time to make lemonade. I have heard and read countless stories of folks discovering hidden talents just from being quarantined for a long time. Hobbies abound, such as bread baking, sewing, painting, model building and writing (like me!). People have also learned to slow down, take long walks, enjoy nature, and reconnect with old friends on Zoom. These are all blessings stemming from a worldwide truckload of lemons.
If you review your own life, you’ll no doubt think of situations when life handed you lemons. Years ago, my sister Marcia experienced a perfect example when she rescued a deaf and blind miniature dachshund. Rudolph was a true lemon of a canine. Marcia never saw him that way. Rudolph had been re-homed four times before she took on the challenge of raising a disabled pet.
Here was a dog who wouldn’t come when you called him, (he couldn’t hear), wouldn’t come when you signaled him (he couldn’t see), and had violent tendencies. Marcia worked with Rudolph for eight months until he came when she called him; taught him to sit and lie down; house trained him and taught him to navigate the house without being on a collision course. Not only did Rudolph became a loving member of the family, he passed the Therapy Dog International test (other than being able to come when called because he was deaf).
Marcia, being a wonderful writer, wrote a book about Rudolph and his disabilities, Rudolph’s Nose Knows. She then visited many elementary schools with the book and Rudolph where she taught young children about tolerance and the value of people and animals even if they had disabilities. After the reading, Rudolph would stand patiently while the children petted him and asked Marcia questions. The pair positively affected thousands of young people over eight years of service.
During the first year of these classroom presentations and assemblies, Marcia and Rudolph were featured on Brian Williams’ NBC Nightly News as the Friday night “People Making a Difference” segment in 2009. They were also featured in People magazine. I would say this “lemon” really was turned into the best lemonade imaginable.
It happens to be lemon season now here in California. When neighbors call you up and ask if you want a bushel of Meyer lemons, they mean it literally. Last weekend, our friend Jenny invited us over to pick some from her tree. It was loaded! Now I’m distributing them to my family and neighbors. After using lemon juice for my immediate needs, I will juice the remaining lemons and either store it in the fridge or freezer. I could also freeze it in an ice cube tray so it is easier to pull out for a quick marinade or salad dressing. Freezing does not degrade the flavor, thank goodness.
I don’t know what I would do without this versatile fruit. Lemons provide an acidic or sour punch to so many dishes, from vegetables to entrées to desserts to beverages. As they say on TV cooking shows, lemons give food a “brightness.” I couldn’t agree more. I personally use them daily in my salad dressings, marinades, and with fish, poultry, side dishes, or desserts. It is not just the juice–the zest is also an asset.
There is nothing like a lemony fruit dessert after a large meal. It is a refreshing contrast to savory, spicy, or salty flavors. The lemon curd in this recipe has many applications besides the filling in this fruit tart. If you don’t want to fuss with the crust, make berry parfaits. Layer the curd and berries in attractive stemmed glassware about 4-6 ounce size.
Lemon curd is great served with scones, English muffins, or thick slices of homemade bread toasted. Another idea is to use it as a filling for strawberry shortcake or sponge cake. The curd will last in the fridge for about 10 days. It does not freeze well so get creative and use it up. Let us know here at The Insider what type of citrus concoctions you come up with!
Lemon Curd Tart
Yield: 8-12 servings
1 pt. fresh raspberries or blueberries
Lemon Curd (recipe below)
1 c. flour
1 Tbsp. sugar
3 oz. cold butter, cut into bits
1 lg. egg yolk
1-2 Tbsp. ice water
On a lightly floured surface, roll out the dough to fit into a 9” or 11” removable bottom tart pan. Prick all over with a fork. Freeze for 30 minutes. Place on a cookie sheet. Line tart with foil, weighed down. Bake at 375° for 10 minutes. Remove foil and bake blind at 350° for another 15-20 minutes, or until golden brown. Cool completely before placing on a cake plate.
Using an off-set spatula, spread some lemon curd evenly on the bottom of the tart, about 1/3” thick. You will have leftovers. Place raspberries or blueberries close together on top of the curd. The berries should have their bottoms up. Chill until ready to serve.
Yield: 3 cups
4 lg. eggs
1 c. sugar
1 Tbsp. lemon zest
6 oz. melted butter or margarine
1 c. lemon juice
In a small stainless bowl, whisk together the eggs, sugar, and zest. Place over steaming water, being careful not to let the bowl touch the water. Whisk together for a few minutes. Slowly pour in the melted butter. Whisk in the lemon juice.
Continue whisking and cooking until the curd has thickened and coats the back of a spoon. Pour into a bowl. Cover with cling film, leaving a small section uncovered until it has cooled. Keep refrigerated.
Bonnie Fishman attended the Cordon Bleu Cookery School in London. Later, she owned and operated Bonnie’s Patisserie in Southfield, Mich. and Bonnie’s Kitchen and Catering in Bloomfield Hills, Mich. She has taught cooking for over 35 years and created hundreds of recipes. She is now living in Northern California.