Why do lemons have a bad rap? We speak of a troublesome, used car as a lemon or we ask why life has handed us a lemon. In my opinion, lemons are a gift. Which other fruit can we use for making wonderful desserts, sauces for savoury foods, summer drinks, salad dressings, candied peel as well as for garnishing fish, salads and drinks? A gin and tonic is not the same without a nice slice of freshly cut lemon!
Here in Italy, there are different types of lemons. The more common type grows randomly in gardens in our neighbourhood, and in the spring, the flowers lend a wonderful fragrance to the air. Most commercial lemons come from Sicily or the Amalfi coast. The Amalfi lemon (Sfusato Amalfitano), is larger than the lemons we are more familiar with, has a bumpy skin, a thick pith and is good for lemon marmalade and candied peel. The flesh is succulent, juicy, less tart then its more common cousins and is used to make Limoncello.
One of our favourite summer pastas is spaghetti with tuna and lemon. It is easy to make and perfect if guests should drop in unexpectedly, as the ingredients are likely to be at hand for most people who cook. Its really yummy and though I leave most of the Italian cooking to Fidz, even I can turn out a pretty good dish of this particular pasta.
Interestingly, we met a grower at a show in the Botanical Gardens in the spring who had a large array of citrus plants including lemons, in pots, all loaded with ripe fruit (see background plants in above picture). He told us that his secret was to deprive the plants of water and fertilizer and this guaranteed the appearance of fruit. So if any of you have citrus plants in pots and you want them to fruit, now you know!
Spaghetti with lemon and tuna (serves 2 as a main course or 3 as a first)
1 lemon (organic if possible as you will be eating the peel)
120g (~2 oz) tin of tuna in olive oil (we always use the Italian tins of tuna, even in Toronto)
2 Tabspns butter
100g (~11/2 oz) parmesan, freshly grated if possible
Using a fine grater, grate the zest of the lemon and squeeze out the juice of half the lemon. Melt the butter and add the zest and juice. Drain the tuna and flake with a fork. Add to the butter/lemon mixture. Cook the spaghetti in plenty of boiling, salted water according to the instructions (generally ~ 9 minutes). Drain and reserve some of the water. Return to the pan, add the tuna/lemon mixture and mix. Toss with the parmesan and add some of the cooking water if too dry. Serve immediately.
This recipe is very flexible and you can add or decrease the amount of tuna and lemon according to taste.