Imagine a lemon with all of the tart, citrusy tang, yet without all that pucker power. That, my friend, is a Meyer Lemon. Not a true lemon, but a cross between a lemon and a mandarin orange! Named for a U. S. Department of Agriculture employee by the name of Frank Meyer, who brought this delightful fruit back from China in 1908, it is sweeter, less acidic than the more common lemon. By the forties, this not-so-little lemon (it’s larger and rounder than common lemons) was growing VERY popular and was widely grown in California. However, Frank Meyer brought back more from China than he bargained for. With this delicious citrus came the citrus tristeza virus, a virus which killed millions of citrus trees world-wide. The existing Meyer lemon trees were destroyed in an attempt to save other citrus trees. But fear not, by the late fifties, early sixties, virus free Meyer lemons were back in stores.
Because they are sweeter than conventional lemons, yet still tangy, they make for the perfect infusion with olive oil… a marriage made in heaven. Both fruits (olives are fruit!) together, give us a lush, velvety background and a fresh lemony tartness. Now that will kick a broiled fish up a notch or two. A nice, thick, white fish, dressed in a lemony gold extra virgin oil – so simple, yet so perfect together. Performs the same magic with chicken!
Because Meyer lemons are so thin-skinned, they do not travel well. So when you do find them far from home (California), they are usually quite expensive. Infusing them with extra virgin olive oil solves that problem! And you can replace butter with this lemony oil in a recipe anytime. The two great tastes of Meyer lemons and extra virgin olive oil, coming together, create endless possibilities.
One of my favorite cookbooks is entitled Pasta Fresca. It is full of pasta recipes whose sauces require no cooking. A lifesaver in the dog days of August in Philly, where I hail from! One great summer dish from this cookbook (and a favorite of mine) is pasta with extra virgin olive oil, fresh lemon juice, tossed with lots and lots of freshly cracked black pepper and a light coating of grated cheese. Lemon infused extra virgin olive oil gets this recipe to the table in one less step! Using Meyer lemon olive oil takes it to new heights. The only missing ingredient is a cool glass of pinot grigio!