We’re talking simple — lemon curd; shortbread tarts; lemony linguine pasta sauce; and a pucker up, lemon-basil libation. You know what they say: When life gives you lemons … zest them, preserve them, and squeeze them until you get every last drop of goodness out of that little ray of sunshine.
Set a Spring Scene with Citrus
We love an organic tablescape piled high with fresh lemons. Stack the fruit in candle holders, tag lemons to create place cards, and heap them atop a potted Meyer lemon plant, then share as guest takeaways. Instead of a tablecloth, opt for bright yellow placemats and napkins, and cool wrapping-paper runners. Add colorful citrus slices to a pitcher of sparkling water for a refreshing and stunning thirst-quencher.
Lemon Basil Drop
Makes 1 cocktail
Hands down, my all-time favorite cocktail. Freshly squeezed lemon juice and a hint of fresh basil make for a sunny cocktail combo.
- 1½ ounces vodka
- 1 ounce freshly squeezed lemon juice
- ½ ounce basil simple syrup
Add all of the ingredients to a cocktail shaker filled with ice. Shake well, and pour. Garnish with a slice of lemon, and a sprig of fragrant fresh basil.
Basil Simple Syrup
- 1 cup granulated sugar
- 1 cup water
- 4 fresh basil leaves
Simmer the ingredients in a stovetop pan for 5 minutes. Cool, strain, chill, and serve.
How To Preserve Lemons
Preserved lemons are available at most markets, but you can make your own, and it’s so simple. A single jar sitting on a kitchen counter is like sunshine on a cloudy day.
- 3 seedless lemons
- 1/4 teaspoon whole coriander seed
- Small whole chili pepper
- Lidded jar
Scrub the lemons. Slice and quarter each lemon from the top, almost cutting all the way through. Leave lemons intact at one end. Place a teaspoon of salt inside each lemon, then reshape the fruit. Place the lemons in a lidded jar, pressing them down to release the juices. Add additional freshly squeezed lemon juice, until all the lemons are nearly covered. Add a sprinkling of whole coriander and a whole chili pepper to the jar. Seal the jar. Allow to sit in a warm space for 3 to 4 weeks, shaking the jar daily. Rinse the lemons prior to use.
Preserved Lemon Love
The lemon ricotta dip, linguine sauce, and flavored butter spread have one ingredient in common — preserved lemons. It’s amazing how one ingredient can take recipes to the next level. The chili pepper and coriander turn up the heat and warmth.
Baked Ricotta Spread with Lemon, Chives, and Honey
- 1 1/2 cups of fresh ricotta
- 1 tablespoon finely chopped preserved lemon
- 1 teaspoon chopped chives
- Olive oil
In a bowl, combine the ricotta, preserved lemon, chives, salt, and pepper. Scoop the mixture into an ovenproof ramekin. Drizzle with olive oil and honey. Bake at 350 degrees for 15 to 20 minutes until the spread is hot and bubbling. Top with fresh lemon zest and snipped fresh chives.
Linguine with Lemon and Roasted Garlic Sauce
- *1 head roasted garlic
- 1/4 cup olive oil, plus more for tossing and drizzling
- 1/3 cup preserved lemon, rinsed, and chopped
- 1 pound linguine
- Shaved Parmesan
- Lemon zest
- Fresh basil
Place a head of garlic in a foil pouch and drizzle with olive oil, and seal the pouch. Bake at 350 degrees for 25 to 30 minutes until the garlic is soft and begins to caramelize. Cool and squeeze the garlic into a food processor along with the preserved lemon, and a drizzle of olive oil. Pulse into a paste. Warm the paste in a sauté pan, along with 1/4 cup olive oil.
Meanwhile, bring a pot of salted water to a boil, and cook linguine per the package instructions. Drain, reserving 1 cup of the starchy water. Divide the pasta among four plates. Drizzle with olive oil and starchy water, and toss. Top with 1 heaping tablespoon of the preserved lemon and garlic paste. Toss again. Top with a pat of preserved lemon butter, shaved Parmesan, fresh lemon zest, and sliced basil.
Preserved Lemon and Chive Butter
- 1/2 small preserved lemon, chopped
- 1 stick unsalted butter, room temperature
- Zest of 1/4 of a fresh lemon
- White pepper
Mash the ingredients together in a bowl.
Spoon mixture in a line on a rectangle of parchment paper.
Fold the paper over the length of the butter, and tuck under the butter.
Place a straight object (like a baking tin) into the parchment fold, forcing the butter into a uniform log shape. Continue rolling the paper, and twist the ends to seal.
Chill and slice as needed.
Lemon Basil Tart with Lemon and Vanilla Bean Shortbread Crust
(Makes 4– 5 inch tarts)
Preheat oven to 350
This dessert is super sunny and simple, thanks to an easy lemon shortbread crust and store-purchased lemon curd. Infuse the curd with vanilla bean and fresh basil for mouthwatering results.
Lemon and Vanilla Shortbread Crust
- 1 1/2 sticks unsalted butter at room temperature (plus more for greasing)
- 1/4 cup granulated sugar
- 1/4 vanilla bean sugar (I make my own, using leftover vanilla bean pods, immersed in sugar)
- Zest 1/2 a lemon
- 1 3/4 cup all-purpose flour, sifted
- Dried beans (for weights)
Using a mixer, beat together the butter and the two sugars, until light and fluffy. Add the lemon zest, and beat until combined. In batches, add the sifted flour to the bowl, and beat until combined. Divide into four equal parts, and form each into a 6-inch disk. Press the shortbread disks into the bottom and up the sides of the four lightly greased tart pans. Prick the crust with the tines of a fork, and chill for 15 minutes. Line each shell with buttered foil or parchment paper, butter side down, and fill with dried beans. Bake for approximately 12 minutes until the edges just begin to brown. Remove the foil and beans. Continue baking for approximately 15 more minutes until the crust is golden brown. Cool.
Lemon Basil Vanilla Curd
- 2 11-ounce jars lemon curd
- 4 sprigs fresh basil
- 1 vanilla bean, scraped
While the crust is baking and cooling, scoop out two jars of lemon curd. Warm the curd, along with the basil and vanilla bean, in a small stovetop pan, whisking for several minutes until fluid and smooth. Cool. Discard the basil. Spoon the curd into the prepared shortbread crusts, and allow to set up on the counter. Top with a slice of lemon.
See Monica Hart’s design, recipe, and entertaining ideas in every issue of 425 magazine, and at lafamigliadesignllc.com.
Credits: Ingredients from Metropolitan Market, Kirkland. Hair by Seven the Salon, at The Bellevue Collection. Bicycle from Kirkland Bicycle.