Did I ever mention my love of my Meyer lemon tree? Maybe not love in the romantic sense (which would be very disturbing), but love for not only the fact that every year it delivers the sweetly tart yellow orbs of goodness, but also the simple reason that here in our cold, wet, sun-deprived winters I can grow something that you usually see in SoCal or other sunny climes. It's kind of this constant hit of summer every time I look at it or smell the crazily fragrant blossoms. I keep it sitting inside the wine shack in front of a huge south facing window during the winter, and sometimes when I walk in first thing in the morning the aroma just knocks me on my ass, reminding me of a walk though some tropical lemon grove. Okay, I have to close my eyes really tight and stretch my imagination to get there, but you get where I'm going.
We've been making good use of this years crop. Especially intoxicating were the Meyer lemon sidecars made with pear brandy. In fact, we'll be having them again tonight since I find myself with some extra juice from the risotto below. Oh, yeah, the reason for this post is the continuation of the "Month of the New", and our latest excursion into the culinary unknown came courtesy of the aforementioned lemon tree and a recipe that I looked up months ago online and forgot where it came from (so if you're the creator and reading this, please don't be offended and think I'm trying to steal it for my own. Let me know and you'll get full credit. Oh, and thanks!). This was absolutely delicious, like another hit of spring or summer...the natural richness of the risotto set off against the sweet/tangy Meyer lemon and basil. It was even better the next day warmed up at work, rare for a risotto, when the somewhat assertive initial citrusy character had a chance to mellow and meld with the basil, onion, and celery. So be sure and make plenty so you'll have leftovers!
And for those of you who say "Risotto is SO much work, all that stirring." Please, give me a break. If you can't stand up and stir a pot for 15 or 20 minutes, then you'd be better off hopping in your car and hitting your nearest fast food drive through for your McShaker Salad and Filet-O-Fish at McDonald's or whatever the hell you debase yourselves with. For the rest of you, grab some beautiful Meyers at the store and rock this simple, easy, and satisfying risotto asap!
Meyer Lemon Risotto with Basil
6 first course servings
If you can't find any Meyer lemons, use regular (Eureka) lemons.
6 cups chicken stock or canned low-sodium broth
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 medium red onion, finely chopped, about 1 to 1-1/2 cups
1 tender inner celery rib, finely chopped, plus 1/4 cup chopped leaves
1/2 Thai or Serrano chile, minced
Salt and freshly ground pepper
1 garlic clove, minced
1 1/2 cups arborio rice (10 ounces)
1/2 cup white vermouth
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese, plus more for serving
1/4 cup mascarpone cheese
2 tablespoons finely grated Meyer lemon zest
2 tablespoons fresh Meyer lemon juice
1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons julienned basil leaves
1. Bring the stock to a boil in a medium saucepan, cover and keep hot. Melt the butter in a large saucepan. Add the onion, celery rib and chile, season with salt and pepper and cook over low heat, stirring, until softened, about 7 minutes. Add the celery leaves and garlic and cook for 1 minute. Add the rice and cook, stirring until glossy, about 1 minute.
2. Add the vermouth to the rice and simmer over moderate heat until almost absorbed, about 3 minutes. Add the hot stock, 1 cup at a time, and cook, stirring constantly between additions, until most of the stock has been absorbed before adding more. The rice is done when it's tender and most of the liquid is absorbed, about 20 minutes total. Stir in the 1/2 cup of Parmesan cheese, the mascarpone, the lemon zests and juices and the basil. Season with salt and pepper. Spoon the risotto into bowls and serve, passing additional Parmesan at the table.
Cooks note: We had this as a main dish, but I agree with the first course use recommendation. Its bright freshness would be a perfect start to a dinner of braised or grilled hunks of meat.