If I could make one point today, it would be that people should be putting lemons in blenders.
Everything but the seeds, and don't stop blending until all the lemon flesh, pith and zest have been homogenized in the smooth, flowing vortex.
You will be rewarded with a pale yellow puree, the bright flavor of which embodies everything good about lemons. Any recipe that calls for lemon juice, from ceviche to salad dressing, lemonade to lemon pie, would likely benefit from this lemony foam. It does lemon juice's job, but with more zeal and texture. And there is more of it, per lemon, than juice alone.
Eaten straight with a spoon, blended lemon is sharp and refreshing, with a curious complexity. The aromatic oils from the zest, the sour sweetness of the fruit, and the bitterness of the pith combine into a pleasing foam that some would eat unsweetened. The thick structure won't separate, thanks to pectin from the pith that binds it all together.
Mixed with oil and salt, blended lemon adds a thick twist to a tangy salad dressing. One could add it, cautiously, to soup, or use it as a tart garnish. Blended lemon can help make a penetrating marinade, too, especially when lime juice is added (the limes don’t get the blender treatment, as the peel and pith are just too bitter).
Blending sugar with the lemons makes its own kind of magic. The texture is even smoother, and the slurry is so dangerously edible you might need to hide the spoons. You are now at the lemonade stage of the blended lemon sequence. If this is your goal, mix or blend this concentrate with water, at about a tablespoon per cup. My kids have used this this recipe to dominate the neighborhood lemonade market.
The next stage of the blended lemon sequence is what I call the custard stage. It includes blended lemon pudding, pie, curd, pots de crème, bars and many sweet sunny delicacies in-between.
Pots de crème have a decadent, cheesecake-y body, but the cream is slightly at odds with the lemony zing. A dollop of whipped cream, on the other hand, doesn’t present that same conflict and sits well atop any lemon custard. A curd made from blended lemon, stirred carefully in a double boiler, has a taffy-like density and piercing lemony flavor. But at the end of the day, it remains a pot of yellow goop in need of a serving suggestion. My preferred form of blended lemon custard is a baked curd that is something of a cross between a lemon bar and a pie, with a delicate body and a minimalist crust.
You won't find me shaving frozen butter or rolling out batter or powdering the room with flour. I’m too focused on that filling to care about crust. I need crust for one thing only, and that is to ease the removal of my treat, with no chunks left behind, and leave the pan easy to clean.
To accomplish this, I apply a dusting of flour on the bottom of a pan, and pour a blended lemon curd mixture over it. The butter in the curd seeps into the flour while it's baking, forming a crust-like material that does what I need crust to do, and then basically disappears. If you want to make a fancy crust, don’t let me stop you. But to my taste, the scattered flour humbly does its job, gives the curd a bottom, and a platform on which to do its golden, lemony thing.
Most blenders will need at least two or three whole lemons' worth of material in order to form a smooth vortex. Here we use four, just in case.
Yields about 2 cups
Wash them, slice off the end nubs, and cut the lemons into quarters. Squeeze them through a strainer, as if you are making lemon juice, to remove the seeds. Add the juice and seeded lemon quarters to the blender, and turn it onto low. Stop and scrape down the sides if necessary, and keep it on low until it makes a smooth vortex. Turn up the speed progressively higher, as high as you can and still be able to still have a vortex. It it has trouble getting going, add a tablespoon or two of lemon juice, lime juice or water. When you achieve full vortex, blend on high for another 30 seconds.
You now have blended lemon, and many options to choose from. Here is one idea.
Blended lemon curd bars with lazy crust and blueberries
The curd batter includes lime juice, which rounds out the blended lemon flavor. I based my curd on a stovetop recipe from the World in a Pocket blog. In that recipe the curd was baked in a phyllo puff pastry, after being made in a double boiler. Baked curd has more body than its stovetop counterpart, but not the dry stiffness of a lemon bar. It’s more pie like, and must be treated accordingly. The lazy crust keeps it from sticking, but the soft pieces must nonetheless be handled gingerly.
The color varies with the thickness of the curd, with thinner curd being brighter yellow. If you choose to add blueberries, the flavors will contrast as beautifully as the colors. Whatever its hue and contrast, you’ll want to wear shades.
Fills a 13 x 9-inch pan, ¾-inches deep
4 blended lemons (see above)
¼ cup lime juice
2 cups sugar, which will leave the curd on the sour side; add more to taste if you wish (Or dust the finished product with powdered sugar)
8 tablespoons butter, room temperature
2 teaspoons vanilla
1 tablespoon flour
2 teaspoons salt
Optional: a cup of frozen blueberries; whipped cream; powdered sugar
Preheat oven to 350.
Blend the lemons, as described above, with the lime juice.
Add sugar and blend at high for 30 seconds.
Add the butter and vanilla, blend on high until mixed, about 15 seconds. Finally, add the eggs and blend another 15 seconds. This is the custard stage.
Scatter the flour and salt on the bottom of a nonstick or glass baking pan. Spread it evenly but not obsessively; don't try to cover every spot where you can see the bottom of the pan. Slowly pour the raw curd into the pan. In a 13-inch pan it will be about an inch deep. Place it in the center of the oven.
After 30 minutes, scatter the frozen blueberries atop the deep yellow curd.
The sides cook first, bubbling under a shiny skin that creeps inward toward the middle. When the edges start to lightly brown — about 45 minutes — turn off the heat. Leave the oven door closed and let it cool to room temperature. Chill until serving time.