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Cooking with Lemons

When cooking with lemons, remember to use non-reactive cookware. Grate the peel for zest before juicing, as it is easier to zest a whole fruit.

When juicing a lemon, roll it under your palm on the countertop first. You will get more juice.

For a new taste, try Meyer lemons. A sweeter hybrid, they originated in China, possibly as a cross between mandarins and lemons. They have a complex flavor with a hint of lime. You can use them in any recipe that calls for lemons, although they are not a good choice for lemon zest since their skin does not contain enough of the aromatic oils. Easy to find these days as a result of their increasing popularity, Meyers are now cultivated in California, Texas, and Florida. Look for them at the market—they are rounder and smaller than the more familiar varieties and have a thinner skin.

Like salt, the flavor of lemon enhances other flavors. It marries with the flavors of fruits, liquor, herbs, spices, meats, fish, poultry, and pastry, adding contrast and balance. There are many ways to use lemons in your cooking. Squeeze fresh lemon juice on your fish as it grills. Add lemon slices to your chicken as it roasts. Try your hand at making lemon vinaigrette for a picnic salad. Or maybe create a marvelous lemon dessert.  

Lemon Chocolate Cheesecake

Serves 6 to 8

1 package shortbread cookies
3 tablespoons melted butter

Preheat oven to 250 degrees. Coat the inside of a medium springform pan with 1 tablespoon of the melted butter. Chop the cookies in a food processor with a metal blade, pulsing until they are crumbs. Combine the crumbs with the remaining 2 tablespoons of butter until the crumbs stick together. Press the mixture into the sides and bottom of the springform pan. Store in the freezer until needed.

24 ounces cream cheese
2 cups granulated sugar
3 teaspoons minced lemon zest
¼ cup all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons cornstarch
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
½ teaspoon salt
6 large eggs
½ cup fresh lemon juice

Mix together the cream cheese, sugar and lemon zest. Beat on low for 3 minutes. Add the flour, cornstarch, vanilla extract, and salt, then mix on medium for 2 minutes. Keep the sides scraped down.

Add 2 eggs and mix on low for 2 minutes, then add the remaining 4 eggs and mix on medium for 2 more minutes. Add the lemon juice and beat on low for 1 minute. Pour the mixture into the prepared crust, and place the springform pan on a baking sheet on the center shelf of the pre-heated oven. Bake for one hour, then reduce heat to 225 degrees and cook for another hour. Finally, reduce heat to 200 degrees and cook for another hour or until the temperature is 175 degrees in the center of the cheesecake. Remove from oven and cool on the baking sheet for 1 hour.

Refrigerate for 8 hours in springform pan.

Chocolate Ganache Topping:
1 quarter (4 ounces) sweet butter
1 cup heavy cream
12 ounces chocolate chips

Heat the butter & cream together until just boiling. Pour over chocolate chips, let soak for 1 minute and then stir with a wooden spoon until the chocolate starts to melt. Finish with a whisk and beat until the chocolate is nice and smooth and shiny.

Remove the cheesecake from the springform pan and top with the chocolate mixture. Refrigerate to firm the chocolate topping. To serve, cut into triangles and serve with a fruit garnish.

Recipes courtesy of Judith McQueen, Judith McQueen Entertaining.

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