Sharpening the Flavor: Lemon Jam

Mario Batali’s Lemon Oregano Jam has achieved a lot of Internet fame, but all the recipes floating around for it were disappointing. All involve removing the zest from two Meyer lemons, blanching the zest, carefully removing all white pith from the lemon segments, and pureeing the zest and segments with olive oil, salt, and sugar. The result was unimpressive. Just recently I found a better version in Sally Schneider’s interesting cookbook The Improvisational Cook. It tastes better, has a better texture, involves less work, and as a bonus is brimming with hesperidin, naringenin, and the other antioxidants found in citrus. Just one caution: don’t make it more than an hour ahead. It does get bitter if it sits.
Cut two organic Meyer lemons into slices. Carefully pick out all the seeds. Put the slices in the blender with a teaspoon of salt, 3 tablespoons of sugar, and enough olive oil to make the blades run, about 3-4 tablespoons. Pour the velvety frothy puree into a small bowl, add 2 tablespoons of chopped herbs if you like (thyme is my favorite here) and serve. It’s a wonderful fresh relish with almost any greens dish, especially hortapita (see the post of 3-22-09), and is wonderful with grilled seafood or fried fish. A spoonful is a good addition to a salad dressing. Or, as I am prone to do, dip the tip of a spoon into it and lick the spoon slowly and thoughtfully. Your parotid glands will pucker and your mouth will come alive. And why not? After all, it’s spring.

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