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Cooking School, Cooking class in tuscany

Luscious Lemons

This fragrant fruit is available year round. Look for bright yellow lemons that are without blemish; any hints of green indicate they are not yet ripe. The best lemons for zesting are large and have thick skin (be sure to wash them well first). Choose lemons with smooth, thinner skin for slicing in wedges or for extracting juice.

Lemons will keep for about a week in a bowl on your kitchen counter, and for a couple weeks when stored in the refrigerator. You’ll get the most juice from lemons when they’ve been left at room temperature. Rolling them on the countertop, under pressure from your palm, will also help.

The most common type of lemon found at the market is also known as the Eureka lemon, but another variety, the Meyer, has steadily grown in popularity in the U.S. over the last few decades. The Meyer lemon is thought to be a hybrid of the common lemon and either a mandarin or common orange. It’s rounder than the common lemon and its flesh is sweeter and less acidic. All varieties are perfectly suited for a number of dishes and drinks, both sweet and savory, as well as many household and beauty uses.

Meyer lemon risotto

Risotto requires your full attention for thirty minutes or so. Don’t leave it to make a phone call or check your inbox. And serve it immediately; as the Italian saying goes, “Risotto waits for no one!”

SERVES 6 TO 8

  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 leeks, white part only, thinly sliced
  • 1 scallion, white and light green parts only, finely sliced
  • 3 1/2 cups Carnaroli or Arborio rice
  • 1 cup white wine
  • 4 cups hot beef stock, plus more
  • Finely grated zest of 6 Meyer lemons
  • 1 tablespoons fresh thyme leaves
  • 1 tablespoon fresh Meyer lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon capers, rinsed to remove salt
  • 1 cup finely grated Parmigiano- Reggiano
  • cheese
  • Salt
  • Freshly grated black pepper
  • Zest of 1 lemon, julienned, for garnish
1. In a heavy large pot over medium heat, melt 2 tablespoons butter and 2 table-spoons of oil. Add scallions and leeks and cook, stirring frequently, until softened and light golden, but not brown, about 5 minutes. Add rice, stirring constantly, until translucent, about 5 minutes. Add wine and cook, stirring constantly, until rice has absorbed most of the wine and the alcohol has evaporated, about 1 minute.

2. Add 1 ladle of hot broth to rice and cook, stirring constantly, until it has been absorbed. This will take 2 to 3 minutes. Repeat this process 5 to 6 more times, until rice is al dente. (You may have broth left over.) Add lemon zest, thyme, lemon juice and capers and cook, stirring constantly, for 2 minutes more. Remove from heat; stir in remaining butter and Parmigiano-Reggiano. Season to taste with salt and pepper. If risotto seems too thick, add more broth to adjust to desired con- sistency.

3. Spoon risotto onto plates and garnish with julienned lemon zest. Serve immediately.

Handmade lemon pasta with baby clams and blue mussels

A pasta machine (such as a KitchenAid stand mixer with pasta attachment) makes quick work of handmade pasta; but you can certainly roll out and cut the pasta dough by hand if you do not have one. If you have leftover pasta, freeze in zipper lock bags for up to 1 month.

SERVES 4 TO 6

  • For the pasta 2 pounds all-purpose flour, plus more
  • for dusting 3 whole eggs plus 5 egg yolks
  • Salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon extra virgin olive oil
  • Zest of 4 organic lemons, washed and patted dry
  • 1 teaspoon minced flatleaf parsley

1. On a counter or large cutting board, form a well with flour. Place eggs and yolks into center of well. Pour in oil and add salt, parsley and lemon zest. Using a fork, mix together ingredients in the well, then slowly draw in flour from sides of well, until a shaggy dough comes together.

2. Using heels of your hands, knead dough until a soft but firm dough forms.

3. Prepare pasta machine. Cut dough in 5 pieces; flour each one. Set the pasta machine on setting #1 and pass it through 3 times; then change setting to #2 and pass through 3 times. Move to settings 3, 4, and 5, or until dough is smooth and unbroken. If dough starts to shred, fold in thirds and re-process at next lowest setting.

4. Hand cut (or machine cut, if you have the attachment) into papparedelle (very wide noodles), tagliatelle (wide noodles) or tagliolini (thinner noodles) or, if you prefer, spaghetti. Dust fresh pasta with semolina flour or regular flour; let dry out on a kitchen towel, covered with cheese cloth or a light towel.

For the sauce

  • 1 pound baby clams, scrubbed, rinse and steamed open in a skillet
  • 2 pounds blue mussels, de-bearded, scrubbed, rinsed and steamed in a skillet
  • 6 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil 3 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1/3 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • Salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 cup dry white wine
  • 1 tablespoon minced flatleaf parsley
1. Once the clams and mussels have been steamed, de-shell three-fourths of them and place in a small bowl. Reserve the others in the shell, in a separate bowl. Filter the steaming liquid through a cheese cloth and reserve.

2. In a large skillet, quickly sauté garlic and red pepper flakes in oil, making sure garlic does not brown.

3. Add wine and let it evaporate. Add clams, mussels and some of the steaming liquid; cook for 5 minutes on high heat. Season with salt and pepper. Set aside.

4. In a large pot of salted water on high heat, cook pasta for 1 minute. Strain and transfer to skillet with sauce. Sauté for 1 minute to combine flavors, add parsley and serve immediately.

Lemon meringue pie with pistachio pasta frolla crust

SERVES 6 TO 8

For the crust

  • 1/3 cup toasted, husked and ground pistachios
  • 1 1/4 cup flour
  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature, cut into small pieces
  • 1/2 cup confectioners’ sugar
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 1 tablespoon finely grated lemon zest
  • Pinch fine sea salt
For the filling
  • 1 1/2 cups water
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup fresh lemon juice
  • 6 large egg yolks
  • 5 tablespoons cornstarch
  • 3 tablespoons finely grated lemon zest
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
For the meringue
  • 6 large egg whites
  • 1/2 tsp cream of tartar
  • 1 2/3 cups confectioners’ sugar
1. Make crust. Place flour and pistachios in a food processor; pulse to blend. Add remaining ingredients and pulse until moist lumps form. Transfer dough to a floured surface; knead into a ball. Using a rolling pin, flatten it into a disk, wrap it in plastic and chill for 30 minutes.

2. Preheat oven to 325°F.

3. Place chilled dough between two sheets of waxed paper; roll into a 12-inch round. Place dough into a 9-inch pie plate; press dough into the dish, making sure all the entire pie dish is covered. Fold overhanging dough under and crimp. With a fork, pierce/dock dough over its entire surface. Refrigerate for 20 minutes.

4. Line crust with foil and fill with pie weights. Bake for 20 minutes, then remove foil and pie weights; return to oven for another 10 to 15 minutes. Transfer to a cooling rack.

5. Lower the oven temperature to 300°F.

6. Make filling. Place all ingredients except butter into a medium saucepan; whisk to blend. Transfer pan to a burner on medium heat; keep whisking until mixture thickens and starts boiling, about 20 minutes. Remove from heat and blend in butter. Cool while making meringue, then pour into baked crust.

7. Make meringue. Place egg whites in a large bowl. Using a stand mixer (or a hand mixer), beat until foamy. Add cream of tartar and 1 tablespoon of sugar. While beating, add in remaining sugar, 1 tablespoon at a time. Beat at medium speed until glossy and firm, about 7 to 8 minutes. The meringue is ready when stiff peaks form.

8. Using a spatula, spread the meringue over filling, covering the whole surface with fluffy peaks.

9. Bake for 20 minutes, then lower oven temperature to 275°F and bake for another 45 minutes, or until meringue is golden brown. Cool completely, 4 to 6 hours, and serve.

Lemon curd

MAKES 2 CUPS

  • 4 ounces unsalted butter, chopped
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar
  • 1 tablespoon finely grated lemon zest
  • 1/3 cup lemon juice
  • 2 eggs, lightly beaten
1. In a stainless steel bowl over (but not touching) simmering water, combine butter, sugar, lemon zest and lemon juice.

2. Cook, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon or whisk, for 5 minutes or until sugar dissolves completely. Remove from heat. Whisk in eggs and return to heat. Keep cooking, always stirring, for 8 minutes or until mixture thickens and coats the back of a spoon. Remove from heat. Set aside for 8 minutes to cool. Strain directly into hot, sterilized jars. Secure lids. Refrigerate for up to 1 month.

COURTESY OF INTERMEZZO MAGAZINE
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