When Life Gives You Lemons, Blend Them—Whole

When Life Gives You Lemons, Blend Them—Whole
Blend whole lemons into a thick, foamy emulsion you didn't know your cooking needed. (Africa Studio/Shutterstock)

Using a lemon for only its juice is a big waste. The whole thing is edible, including the nutritious pith and the pulp, rich in fiber. Lemon zest is worth its weight in gold, and when I think about how much zest gets tossed, it makes me sad. How many meals could have been brightened? How many cookies pushed over the edge to greatness?

I wouldn’t fault anyone for straining out the seeds, or cutting off the tip of the stem or blossom ends. But I’ve been putting everything else in the blender. The result is a foamy, lemon emulsion that is the solution to culinary problems that I didn’t even know I had.

Blended lemon is like an enhanced form of lemon juice—thicker, and with a broader spectrum of lemon flavor. Like lemon juice, this lemon foam is equally at home in savory or sweet contexts, and is especially good as a condiment to rich dishes like a leg of lamb or a light salad. When it's mixed with enough sugar, the bitter notes are sedated, the sour notes are activated, and the zest is elevated.

I’ve written previously about using lemon foam to make a baked custard. Lately, I’ve been messing around with no-bake lemony treats, like a lemon foamed whipped cream that seems to disappear as fast as I can make it.

Did you know that you can make whipped cream in a mason jar? I fill a pint jar 1/4 full with heavy cream, and shake it for about three minutes until it’s whipped, stiff peaks and all. Then I add a teaspoon of lemon foam—already sweetened to the point where I can’t stop eating it—and shake some more. It will get even thicker, while the bitter, sour, zesty, and sweet flavors are softly embraced and absorbed by the cream, making for a thick treat straight off the spoon.

One of the highest uses of blended lemon foam that I have yet discovered is in a marinade for proteins. The lemon oil seems to penetrate and flavor deeply, making any meat, even an elk steak, taste curiously white. So it's no surprise that chicken, the whitest of white meats, excels the most in my citrus emulsion. I like to marinate chunks of chicken in lemon foam overnight, along with garlic, olive oil, and seasonings. The next day, I fry the chicken on high heat with parsley and onion.

I chose my chicken seasonings based on the contents of a jar of spicy preserved lemons that was gifted to me by my friend Nifer. Those lemons, like my foam, are whole, including all the guts and skin of the fruit that are normally tossed. You can taste that whole lemon flavor in the preserved lemons, underneath Nifer’s array of spices. I tried to copy those spices for my chicken marinade. I came up with coriander, cinnamon, and sesame seeds. I don’t know if this is the mixture that is in that unmarked jar of lemons, but it’s a good mix nonetheless.

This chicken will elicit expletives of joy, as the glorious cubes of chicken explode nonviolently in your mouth. The kid-praise for blended lemon chicken is through the roof. It has inspired enthusiastic displays of interpretive dance, and is officially better than hot dogs or mac 'n' cheese—with more fruits and vegetables.

Marinated with blended lemon foam overnight, this chicken breast explodes with flavor. (Ari LeVaux)
Marinated with blended lemon foam overnight, this chicken breast explodes with flavor. (Ari LeVaux)

Blended Lemon Chicken

You need a lightweight omelet pan with a long handle and a tight-fitting lid. If you don’t have one, you should get one anyway. Don’t be afraid to add lots of parsley. It will probably all get eaten.
  • 3 lemons
  • 1 pound chicken breast
  • 4 tablespoons olive oil, divided
  • 2 cloves garlic, grated, mashed, or pressed
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 2 teaspoons whole coriander seed
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 tablespoon sesame seeds
  • 1 bunch parsley, chopped
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
Wash the lemons. Remove the brown nubs at the stem ends, and slice them into quarters. Squeeze the slices through a strainer to remove seeds, and add the juice to a blender along with the squeezed lemon slices. Add up to a cup of water if necessary to get the blender to properly vortex. Congratulations on your blended lemon foam.

Cut the chicken into cubes, about an inch on a side, and add them to a bowl with a tablespoon or two of blended lemon. Add 2 tablespoons of the olive oil, and the garlic, salt, pepper, sugar, coriander, cinnamon, and sesame seeds. Marinate in the fridge for a few hours or overnight.

Add the remaining 2 tablespoons oil to an omelet pan, with the heat on medium-high. When the oil is hot enough to sputter, add the chicken cubes, one by one, spaced out so they aren’t touching each other. Put the lid on to contain the splatter. (If you have a kitchen hood, turn the fan to high.) Let it cook like that for 2 or so minutes, allowing some moisture to weep out and steam the chicken from above while it sizzles below. You should not smell burning. If you do, proceed immediately to the next step.

With hands on the lid and handle, shake the chicken around. Pause. Add the parsley. Cook and shake again. Finally, add the onion, which will immediately release moisture. Cover and shake, and cook for another minute. Turn off the heat while the onions still have some body. Serve with all of the tasty bits from the pan.

Ari LeVaux writes about food in Missoula, Mont.
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