When Meyer lemons are around, perking up the produce department with their vibrant yellow exterior and promising plumpness, you might be tempted to swap them into recipes that call for regular lemons. And that would work, much of the time. But it's kind of a shame not to capitalize on their more generous juiciness, less-acidic flesh and sweeter zest.
This hearty, grain risotto features three ways to enjoy the fruit: in tender sections, zest and the reduced juice.
- 4 large Meyer lemons
- 6 cups low-sodium, nonfat vegetable broth
- 2 medium bulbs shallot
- 3 medium cloves garlic
- 1/2 teaspoon coarse sea salt or kosher salt
- 2 tablespoons canola oil
- 2 cups pearled barley
- 1 cup off-dry white wine, such as a Riesling
- 1 teaspoon honey
- 1/2 cup creme fraiche (may substitute sour cream; do not use nonfat)
- 3 handfuls (2 to 3 cups, loosely packed) greens, such as tatsoi, chard, baby spinach, arugula (optional)
Grate the zest from 3 of the lemons and set aside; juice the same 3 lemons and strain into a small saucepan.
Heat the vegetable broth in a separate large saucepan over high heat; bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to medium.
Meanwhile, mince the shallots. Mince the garlic and add the salt to the mince to coat and help break down the garlic.
Heat the oil in a large heavy-bottomed pot over medium heat. Add the shallots and salted garlic; cook, stirring often, for 2 to 4 minutes, until softened; be careful not to burn them. Add the barley and stir to coat evenly, then add the white wine and increase the heat to medium-high. When the mixture starts to bubble, add 1 cup of the hot broth to the barley. Increase the heat to high and cook, stirring occasionally, for about 5 minutes, until the barley has absorbed more than half of the liquid. Add the remaining broth 1 cup at a time, over high or medium-high heat, stirring occasionally and waiting until much of that liquid has been absorbed before adding more; this will take about 20 minutes. (It may take 5 1/2 cups instead of 6 to achieve a tender but slightly chewy risotto; that's okay. The barley can take the high heat, as long as you stir to keep it from scorching on the bottom.)
While the barley risotto is cooking, heat the lemon juice in the small, nonreactive saucepan over medium heat; in 5 to 7 minutes, it will have reduced by half. Add the honey, mix well and remove from the heat (there should be a few tablespoons' worth of liquid). Cut the peel from the remaining lemon, reserving for another use. Use a knife to separate the lemon into segments, cutting between the membranes and discarding the seeds.
When most, but not all, of the liquid has been absorbed and the barley is the desired consistency, remove the pot from the heat. Add the creme fraiche and mix well; the risotto will lighten in color and thicken. Add the greens, if using, and stir until just wilted.
To serve, divide the risotto among individual bowls. Stir a few lemon sections into each helping, then sprinkle with some of the reserved lemon zest. Finally, drizzle a little of the reduced juice-honey mixture on the top. Serve immediately.
Adapted from a recipe by Heidi Swanson on her Web site, 101Cookbooks.com.
Tested by Bonnie S. Benwick.
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