Local food is of great interest to me. I know that we were much better off when most of our food came from the surrounding area. I experienced this as a kid growing up in Ohio. I remember buying produce and fruit off the back of a farmer’s truck or at a stand along side of the road. It is a romanticized memory, certainly, but the reality of the scarcity of oil, the industrialization of farming and the preponderance of processed food make the need to concentrate on local, fresh food real.
Buying local in Kansas in the dead of winter is very difficult. And the suburbanization of towns and cities has made buying local in places like New York and Topeka more challenging as well. That does not stop good food lovers in these places. Farmers markets are more prevalent than ever, there is a rise in canning and urban gardens and the local butcher and fishmonger are coming on strong.
I live in California, which has great abundance and feeds a lot of the country. That doesn’t mean that we are not without challenges. Los Angeles is a sprawling city with little room for chickens and cows. What was once orange and lemon groves is now a sea of suburban sprawl. Fortunately, the developers were clever enough to leave the occasional tree and more recent inhabitants have discovered that the climate is perfect for growing a variety of citrus. There is an alley near my house that has tangerines, cumquat and lemon all hanging over the walls for the sly passerby to pick.
This is a very long winded introduction to the Meyer Lemons which are in season right now. Meyer lemons are a fantastic cross between a regular lemon and a sweet orange. They originated in China and were introduced to the United States by Frank Nicholas Meyer in 1908 in California. For a long time quite rare, they are now available in better markets and California backyards. If you can’t find them, use a regular lemon. Because the meyer lemon tends to be milder and less acidic, it is a good idea to use a little less of a regular lemon if you are forced to substitute. I don’t normally make a big deal about specific ingredients, but this is one of my favorites. I love lemons but they can easily overwhelm a dish. This is the first in a series of Meyer Lemon recipes.
MEYER LEMON FETTUCCINI
- 1 Package of Dried Fettuccini (16oz)
- 1/2 Cup Meyer Lemon Juice
- Zest of 2 Meyer Lemons
- 1/2 Cup Olive Oil
- 1/2 Cup Grated Parmesan
- Bunch of Fresh Italian Parsley
- Salt and Pepper
- Pinch Red Pepper Flakes (optional)
- Large Sauce Pan
- Fine Grater
- Measuring Cup
- Hand Juicer
- Put a large pan of salted water on to boil.
- When boiling, add pasta and cook as long as package indicates, or until al dente.
- Zest two lemons. The meyer lemon skin is thinner than a regular lemon and therefore produces less zest.
- Squeeze 1/2 cup juice, careful not to include any seeds.
- Whisk in olive oil. Taste to make sure it has the right acidity. The lemons will vary and might require more or less oil.
- Add red pepper flakes and cheese and whisk.
- Add a little salt and pepper. Careful with the salt as the cheese is salty.
- Chop a good handful of Italian Parsley.
- When the pasta is done, strain into large bowl.
- Mix in enough of the lemon mixture to evenly coat.
- Toss with a bit more pepper, lemon zest and the parsley.
There are a million variations for this recipe. It is a great bed for chicken, shrimp, lobster or scallops. The ratio between lemon and oil can be altered and the oil can be substituted for butter. I love it all on it’s own. In the winter time it is another little vacation to Tuscany.