It All Started with a Lemon

left over snowWe’ve had quite a winter so far, with the evidence of our January blizzard still on display in our yards and parking lots. Today’s unseasonably warm temperatures are supposed to help with that. Just this week, however, on Tuesday we had yet another snow day (our seventh so far) from school due to ice and terrible road conditions. Trying to avoid the stack of essays that were calling to me from my school bag, like sirens beckoning the sailors to come toward the rocks, I took to the kitchen.

limoncelloMy husband had brought home from the grocery store two bags of lemons. Earlier in February I had packaged up the last of my homemade limoncello as a hostess gift for a friend whose Mardi Gras party we were attending. Nestled in a gift bag along with a half-pint of homemade orange marmalade, the glistening yellow fire in a bottle looked quite appealing. I find it a bit strong for my taste but my friends love receiving a bottle of it on special occasions. A separate shopping trip produced the requisite two bottles of grain alcohol. That, some water, and six cups of sugar, is all it takes to create three quarts of homemade limoncello.

Making limoncello is not difficult, at least not the recipe I use, which I found in the Wednesday Food Section of the Washington Post in 2005. The hardest part is peeling seventeen lemons, being careful not to strip away any of the bitter, white pith. Then, you wait. And wait. And wait. Finally, you have something very special. Once I brought a bottle of it to a friend’s house, and her Italian husband found it in the freezer when he was serving drinks to some friends who were visiting from his hometown in Italy. He asked where the limoncello had come from and she told him I had made it. He brought it out and served it to his paesani. They killed the whole bottle. He told his wife it was the best limoncello he had ever tasted. Enough said.

lemon curdAfter peeling the seventeen lemons and putting them to swim for thirteen days in a four-quart jar half filled with grain alcohol, I was left with seventeen naked lemons. I figured if I didn’t go ahead and juice them right then and there they would end up shriveled and useless in a baggie in the back of my fridge. So, I hit Google looking for ways to use leftover lemon juice. Lemon bars, no, too many carbs. Lemon pound cake a la Starbucks, ditto. Lemonade made with artificial sweetener, too cold. Then I stumbled upon a recipe for lemon curd that could be modified to be low-carb. So, I got out eggs and butter and Splenda and made a batch of sugar-free lemon curd. Not great, but also not bad for zero carbs.

coconut macaroonsOf course, lemon curd depends on extra egg yolks to make it so thick and creamy. After making the lemon curd, I was left with two egg whites. Now what? Sure, I could have poured them down the drain or put them in the freezer, which would have been the same as pouring them down the drain because I know I would never have thawed and used them. So, I dug around in my pantry to see what I could make with two egg whites. Seeing two bags of coconut that I had purchased a while back, I decided to make coconut macaroons. Not exactly low carb, I know, considering the main ingredients are two bags of sweetened coconut and one can of sweetened condensed milk (diabetic coma right there in a can), but I planned to bring these beauties to school the next day because two of my teaching colleagues love coconut and chocolate, naming Almond Joy and Mounds as their two favorite candy bars.

MacaronsSpeaking of macaroons, we had dinner at a French bistro on Valentine’s Day. The “chef’s special” for after-dinner was a trio of mini-desserts: chocolate mousse, carrot cake, and as the waiter said, a macaroon. I asked him, “a coconut macaroon or the French cookie, the macaron?” He said it didn’t have coconut in it, so I said, “Oh, okay, the macaron.” As the French cookie has become today’s version of the cake pop or the little sweetheart, the cupcake, I hear more and more people calling it a macaroon. Now, I’m not trying to be rude, but I think waiters in a French bistro should know the difference. Just saying. chef specialOh, and by the way, when the “chef’s special” arrived at our table, no macaroon or macaron, just the chocolate mousse (mediocre) and two servings of the carrot cake (okay). No explanation whatsoever.

After making my trio of goodies, I whipped up a quick batch of Beef Vegetable Soup for dinner and decided to read for a while before dinner. No, I did not grade the essays, but I had a great day in the kitchen. The next day, I brought the macaroons to school as promised and placed them on the table in the faculty lounge. One of my colleagues asked what was the occasion. I said, “Well, I made limoncello and had lemon juice left over so I made lemon curd but then I had egg whites left over so I made macaroons.” Everyone laughed at this, even as they were enjoying the fruits of my thriftiness.

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6 thoughts on “It All Started with a Lemon

    • I’ve seen the movie but it was so different from the book I didn’t really enjoy it. The book is very good. If you like it you should check out A Year in Provence by Peter Mayle. BBC film adaptation is very very good.

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