Gitchie Gitchie Ya-Ya Meyer Lemon Marmalade 🍋

with Trips to Casita del Campo & Damian PLUS My Sister-in-Law on Lunch Therapy.

Hey everyone,

My friend and neighbor Tony grows Meyer lemons in his front yard — we pass them often when we walk Winston — and the other day I had him over for dinner and he brought me THIS many lemons.

I felt overwhelmed and excited all at the same time; overwhelmed because: “Holy crap, I better use these lemons before they go bad!”

Only problem: I didn’t have jars. So another neighbor, my new friend Felicia, gave me jars when I Tweeted about my lack of them. And then I got to work making two things: lemon marmalade and preserved lemons.

For the lemon marmalade, I worked from several recipes (mostly using my friend Elise’s on Simply Recipes), skipping the pectin bag and just, basically, slicing up a bunch of the lemons, measuring what I sliced in a measuring cup, and then adding an equal amount of water… boiling them until soft (about 25 minutes) and, finally, an equal amount of sugar. So that was 8 cups sliced lemons, 8 cups water, and, eventually, 8 cups sugar (ya, it’s a lot of sugar, but that’s marmalade for ya).

As you can see, I didn’t get all the seeds out, and that’s okay: the seeds provide pectin and, also, you can fish them out with a spoon while the marmalade’s cooking (if a a few get in the finished jars, call it “rustic.”) The key step, once you add the sugar, is cooking, cooking, cooking until it hits about 218 on a candy thermometer and (this is the important part) it passes the wrinkle test. What’s that? You put a plate in the freezer, then spoon on some of the hot jam, put it back in the freezer for a few minutes, and then push it with your finger. If it wrinkles? Your jam is done.

Then I just ladled into jars, put the lids on, let them cool, and put them in the fridge. You can process them, if you want (meaning: you put the full jars in boiling water so they’re shelf stable) but these will last several weeks in the fridge as is.

But wait, we’re not done… there were even MORE lemons.

What did I do with those? I used Nicole Rucker’s recipe for making preserved lemons from her cookbook, Dappled.

It was as simple as this: in a large bowl, mix together 1 cup fine sea salt, 3 tablespoons raw Turbinado sugar, 2 cinnamon sticks (I didn’t have those, so I skipped), 2 dried bay leaves, 2 dried chilies de Arbol, 1 teaspoon whole black peppercorns, 1/2 teaspoon coriander seeds, and 1/2 teaspoon fennel seeds. Then you cut a cross-shape into 6 to 8 Meyer lemons, slicing 3/4ths all of the way down (trying to keep them together). Then you toss everything, shove the salt mixture in between the lemon cracks, and press everything into a jar with the back of a wooden spoon.

Now it’s sitting on my windowsill and after a week, I’ll refrigerate and wait to use them in a month. They’ll be great in couscous, in aioli, salads, with beans.

In other news, I went to two very different Mexican restaurants this past week.

First, I’ll talk about Casita del Campo, a queer, L.A. institution in Silverlake that’s pretty unmissable with its bright pink facade.

The food at Casita is just what you want to eat on a Friday night with margaritas (I went with my friend Justin). Bottomless chips and salsa. And for my entree, the goopiest enchiladas suizas, with lots of cheese and refried beans and guacamole and rice. I loved it.

Now for the other Mexican restaurant I went to this past week: Damian, which couldn’t be more different.

Damian is the latest from Pujol chef Enrique Olivera, who also has Cosme in New York (which I loved). The vibe at Damian is super hip: a bright room, modern decor, well-dressed guests (I regretted wearing a t-shirt).

The food was beautiful: take this tlayuda with zucchini, queso fresco, and shrimp shells (yes, you heard that right):

Everything we ate there (I went with my friend Ben) was lovely, especially the striped bass ceviche:

And the carne asada, which came with warm homemade tortillas:

The dessert had echoes of a dessert at Cosme in New York; a hibiscus meringue with strawberries (the one in New York has fresh corn):

What else have I been up to cooking-wise? I’ve been testing recipes for the Broadway cookbook. This lentil soup was tops:

As were these wicked cookies (get it?):

Finally, my sister-in-law, Kristin Johnson, is this week’s guest on Lunch Therapy!

Kristin’s a therapist-in-training who lives in Bellingham, Washington (where Craig is from) and she wanted to come on to talk about her lunch, her family, her resistance to over-charred pizza, the time she made me cry when arguing about vegetarianism, her people-pleasing instincts, attachment theory, and the time she almost killed a chicken. CLICK HERE to listen and be sure to leave a nice review while you’re there!

Here are some links that caught my attention recently:

  • Stephanie Izard’s Girl and the Goat is opening in L.A. I’m excited! (Eater LA);

  • Melissa Clark offers an alternative to grilling using, you guessed it, a sheet pan (NYT);

  • A guest at my friend Pim’s restaurant dropped Rene Redezepi’s name to get a reservation and it turned out to be… Kanye West?! (Twitter);

  • So disappointed to hear this about the Top Chef winner (The Washington Post);

  • A good article on Twitter addiction (The Atlantic).

That’s all for this week, folks!

Until next time….

Your friend,