I love lemons. Every morning for as long as I can remember—which ain’t long—I take a lemon, cut it in half, squeeze half into a large glass, fill it with water and chug it.Then I take the other half-lemon and do it all again. Seriously. Two huge glasses of fresh lemon water every morning.
Sure, I have to carry a Porta-Potty with me wherever I go for the next hour, but I do lemon water just about every day. I’m pretty sure there are 365 days in a year; I miss maybe one or two. Maybe.
When I’m on the road, I take lemons with me. Chicago, San Antonio, Baltimore, doesn’t matter. When I was in Rome? I found a local grocer with some of the best lemons I’ve ever tasted. On the way back from Berlin, USA customs detained me because I had 2 lemons in my suitcase.
During lemon season, my Palm Springs pals bring me bags of lemons, dozens and dozens. This is how crazy I am about lemons, and I hate to admit it, but it’s true…If they start to get over-ripe, I squeeze them all, and put the juice into ice cube trays, and use a couple cubes in my AM H2O.
I preach the Slim Lemon Sermon all the time. Lots of the nieces now drink lemon water. Lots of my friends do, too. But that doesn’t mean much—most of my friends have about as much sense as an orangutan. I hope I haven’t offended any orangutans…
I’m just a lemon-loving guy. I know, it’s a little crazy, but at least I know it’s crazy.
And right now, it’s lemon season once again out here in Palm Springs. I’m in Slim Heaven! You see lemon trees all over the place, the blossoms smell as sweet as any rose, and the trees are heavy with fruit. There are so many lemons, people just let most of them fall to the ground.
My beloved lemons, left on the desert floor to rot. Makes me crazy. That’s liquid gold, amigos!
One day, on my morning jog, I passed a bunch of Meyer lemon trees. They were behind a six-foot cinderblock wall, and I could see the fruit was so ripe, it was falling off the trees. What a waste. What a crime!
What I did next was probably a crime, too. I jumped on top of the wall, and grabbed as many lemons off the tree as I could. I stuffed them in my pockets, I made a little pouch with my T-shirt.
I learned this: lemon trees have thorns. Big nasty thorns. My forearms were bloody, but I had a stash of the sweetest smelling Meyer lemons I’d ever come across. I jumped down from the wall and ran like an escaped convict back to the Slim Shack.
If the police wanted to arrest me, I would have been easy to find. All they would have to do would be to follow the trail of blood that was dripping from my forearms.
When I got back to the shack, I put the lemons in a bowl, and admired it like a Van Gogh.
They were so sweet and ripe you could smell them across the room. I started thinking…what could I cook with these?
I’d heard of pasta with lemon sauce. I became intrigued. So I looked up some recipes by, you know, The Usual Suspects…Giada, Emeril, Mario, etc. I even bought a ten-buck Cook’s Illustrated magazine just for that one recipe.
I tried a bunch of recipes, and no matter what, it still tasted too sour. Some folks added heavy cream, but that wasn’t doing it for me. Lots of recipes called for lemon zest, and I’m not a big fan. If you’ve ever put your big fat lips on the outside of a lemon, you know that the sensation ain’t pleasant. It’s not a good taste. So I eliminated the lemon zest.
Another problem? The raw garlic in most of the recipes gave the dish a sharp bite that I was not digging at all. What the dish needed was some smoothy-smoothness, not sharpness. So I tried shallots instead; I cooked them in a little olive oil and butter. It was better.
But it was still too lip-puckering for my delicate Slim Self. What could I add to give this dish a little balance? Honey? Maple syrup? Agave?
Then it hit me. Limoncello!
Limoncello is sweet, but not too, and it has a little kick to it. I’m pretty sure there is some form of lemon in Limoncello, so that’s a big plus. I really like the taste of it, and best of all, you can light it on fire and watch it explode. Which is what I did.
Please be careful, Slim People. I need every one of ya.
The Limoncello worked out beautifully. After it ignited, the flames made the edges of the shallots crisp and oh so nice. I loved the way this turned out. It took long enough!
The Ralph’s right up the street has Meyer lemons. I’ve found them in most grocery stores. They’re worth a short drive.
Or a leap over a cement wall.
Slimmest of All People, please be careful when igniting the Limoncello. Use a long-handled lighter, and maybe some of those real heavy gloves that people use to move around burning logs in a fireplace.
I tried this sauce 3 ways. The first was with spaghetti and cheese. It was excellent.
The second time I tried it, Selma Krapoff, our Head of Slim Merch, wanted shrimp with it. I’m not a big fan of combining seafood and cheese. But Selma had that look in her eye, so I saved myself some aggravation and just made it her way. It was not so bad!
The third time I made this dish was last night for some Italian friends, and I used shrimp. I knew they would revoke my Italian citizenship if I combined shrimp and cheese, so I eliminated the cheese, left it out, and it was molto buono!
You have 3 options, my Slim People. Do it your way.
3 tablespoons butter
3 tablespoons olive oil
¼ teaspoon crushed red pepper
½ cup chopped shallots
¼ cup limoncello
1 pound pasta (spaghetti or linguine)
½ cup fresh-squeezed Meyer lemon juice
1 cup Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
½ cup fresh basil, snipped into shreds
Basil leaves and lemon twists for garnish
OPTIONAL: 1 ½ pounds shrimp, de-shelled and de-veined
HERE WE GO…
In a large sauté pan, over medium heat, add 2 tablespoons butter and 2 tablespoons olive oil.
When the butter bubbles, add the crushed red pepper.
Add the shallots.
Let them sauté for 30 seconds, then swirl. Do this 4 times, 2 minutes.
Add the limoncello. Light it on fire with a long-handled lighter. Because if you don’t, you’ll burn the hair on your forearms.
Let the limoncello burn off, a minute or so.
If you’re not adding shrimp, remove from heat.
If you are adding shrimp, keep the heat on medium and add the shrimp
Sprinkle the tops with a little Kosher salt.
Let shrimp cook for a minute or two, stir/flip, and cook for another minute or two until pink and scrumptious!
Remove from heat.
For the pasta…
Cook according to the instructions.
When al dente, drain. Put in a large bowl.
Add 1 tablespoon butter and 1 tablespoon olive oil.
Mick ‘em up!
Add lemon juice. Mick ‘em up.
Add the sauce.
If you used shrimp in the sauce, add that now!
If you used shrimp and don’t want cheese, skip the next step.
Add cheese. Mix.
Add the basil. Mix gently.
Let’s dish it up! Put a small amount on a plate, add a basil leaf and a curly piece of lemon peel for garnish.