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January 22, 2007

This Party’s A Lemon!


Let us throw a party in your kitchen.


The key to throwing a successful party is knowing how to keep the guests entertained and conversation flowing. We keep that fundamental truth in mind and honor it.


Our first step is inviting the right guests, people you expect will find each other’s company both charming and delightful. For our party, we first invite the simple lemon.


You think, “ahhh, will we be ade-ing something?” No, nothing will be ade-ed. But, all the same, you will want the juice.


Cut the lemons in half and squeeze the juice from them. Squeeze and squeeze and squeeze again, until you feel like the bones in your hand might break (alternately, you may use a juicing device of some kind). Remove the pits and discard – as shells containing embryonic trees, they are too young for this party.


But, to just juice a lemon and discard the husk is wasteful, a sign of disrespect not only to the lemon, but the tree that once bore it. You are already committing a great sin by discarding the seeds – any lemon tree that springs to life will do so either in your local landfill or compost heap.


How to more thoroughly use the lemon, and show basic respect for life? The mind locks onto the pulp. The answer, we assure ourselves, is in the pulp.


Dismiss this thought. If you were after the pulp, you wouldn’t have squeezed out the juice. The pulp functions as nothing more than a handy container in which the juice is stored. If you have an alternate use for the pulp, by all means employ it. But, the pulp is not welcome at this party.


No, apply the small holes of your grater to the skin and rub it off. Like any sane creature, the lemon doesn’t part easily with its skin, but you must grate nonetheless, even at risk of hurting our friend the lemon.


Once you’ve grated down to white, look at what lies on the plate. It lies there, yellow-ish and wet.


But, you have accomplished something. You have just now created zest. Congratulate yourself … a pat on the back wouldn’t be out of order here. You may now discard the dejuiced and dezested lemon husks.


Take said zest and gently sauté it in olive oil with garlic. This foundation not only packs a powerful flavor punch, but it might make your house smell springtime clean. There are some who argue that this is a good short-term remedy of the winter blahs. They would be right. Exalt in their wisdom!


While the garlic and zest meet and get to know each other, it is time for an introduction – pine nuts and an oven preheated to 350 degrees. You are now the hostess of a party, with one pair of guests engaged in a conversation that will last the entire night, and one pair that will talk only for a short time.


The pine nuts should stay in the oven for only a short time, until they are toasted (it is usually appropriate to end a conversation when one of the participants is toasted). It will happen in about five or six minutes, and the heat will bring out a decidedly nutty flavor.


Let them cool.


Now, turn your attention to the conversation on your burner. It is in danger of turning stale, and the lemon zest and garlic are fumbling about for a new topic. Add your lemon juice, half a cup of either milk or heavy cream and parsley.


Stir, stir and stir some more. The conversation has now turned to a tricky topic, and could wind up offending your dairy product to the point where it will curdle and turn surly. You, as hostess, must continue to stir the conversation to keep it light and lively. At some point, you will notice that the sauce begins to get thicker. Good, good. This is what you want, a sauce that will coat pasta, not pool at the bottom of your bowl.


Once it has achieved appropriate viscosity (not runny, but also not a rock-hard solid), you now introduce the toasted pine nuts, turn off the heat and allow all them to mingle while you cook the pasta. All will be highly amused by this turn of events, and will declare the party you’ve thrown to be a social highlight of the year.


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