Lemon Tips, Tricks and Recipes

Bowl of Lemons

If oranges are citrus symbol of winter, bright and sunny lemons are what we reach for during the summer! In Sicily, lemons star in refreshing summer treats such as lemon granita, sorbetto, and gelato, and who in the United States can imagine a summer without fresh-squeezed lemonade, or a cool glass of iced tea accompanied by slices of lemon?

Available year round, the versatile lemon is a staple of kitchens throughout the world and this is especially true in the Mediterranean. One of the first things I noticed about eating out in Italy is that lemon slices are almost always served as an accompaniment to grilled meats, fish, and salads. Well, there’s good reason for that! A squeeze of fresh lemon juice is a great way to add flavor to food without using too much salt.

Here are some ways to take advantage of the abundance of fresh lemons that are, luckily, available just about everywhere at any time of the year! Try using a combination of lemon juice, olive oil and fresh garlic next time you need a quick marinade for chicken, pork, or thin-sliced steak. Grilled sausage also benefits from a quick squeeze of lemon juice after it comes off the grill. And of course, lemon is the perfect accompaniment to all kinds of seafood.

Let’s not forget the vegetables! Lemon juice and olive oil make a light and refreshing dressing for green salads while steamed vegetables taste great with a dab of butter or olive oil and a squeeze of lemon. And lemons pair well with fruits and berries, also! For a new twist, try adding lemon zest to your favorite blueberry muffin recipe.

Lemons add wonderful flavor to both sweet and savory dishes but there is another great reason to enjoy this versatile citrus fruit. Lemons are packed with vitamin C, one of the most important anti-oxidants in nature. So if you aren’t doing it already, try brightening up your diet with the addition of fresh lemons, your body and your taste buds will thank you for it!

Quick tips for lemons:

  • When shopping, choose smooth-skinned lemons that feel heavy for their size.
  • Store lemons in the refrigerator if you will not be using them immediately.
  • 1 medium lemon equals approximately 1 tablespoon of lemon zest and 2 tablespoons of lemon juice.
  • If lemon is cold, microwave it for a few seconds before squeezing to help extract more juice.
  • Before juicing, use your palm to roll the lemon on the countertop a few times.
  • If you will be using both the lemon zest and juice, remove the zest before cutting and juicing the lemon.
  • When zesting a lemon, make sure to remove only the thin bright yellow part of the skin as the white pith underneath is bitter.
  • Lemon juice sprinkled over fresh fruit such as sliced apples, prevents discoloration.

Here are a couple of lemon recipes that you are sure to enjoy: a classic lemonade to cool you off during the long, hot summer and some giant lemon sugar cookies–because cookies should be enjoyed all year long!

Fresh Lemonade

1 C. fresh-squeezed lemon juice
3/4 C. sugar
Ice Cubes
4 C. water
Lemon slices

In a pitcher, stir together lemon juice and sugar until sugar is completely dissolved. Add the water and ice cubes and stir again. Serve immediately.

Giant Lemon Sugar Cookies

2 C. sugar, divided
Zest of 2 lemons, divided
1 C. butter, softened
2 large eggs, at room temperature
1 t. vanilla
1 T. lemon juice
2 3/4 C flour
1/4 t. salt
2 t. cream of tartar
1 t. baking soda

Prepare lemon sugar: In a mini food processor, blend 1/2 C. sugar with 1 t. lemon zest. Pulse several times until the lemon zest is incorporated into the sugar. Put sugar mixture in a shallow bowl and stir lightly with a fork to break up any clumps. Set aside.

Prepare cookie dough: In a medium bowl, stir together flour, salt, cream of tartar and baking soda. Set aside.

In a large mixing bowl, cream together butter and remaining 1 1/2 C. sugar. Blend in eggs, one at a time then add vanilla, lemon juice, and remaining lemon zest. Add flour mixture, one cup at a time, blending well after each addition, until all flour is incorporated.

Refrigerate dough for one hour.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Shape the cookies: Using a jumbo cookie scoop or your hands, shape two tablespoonfuls of dough into a ball and roll in lemon sugar. Place ball of dough on cookie sheet and press down lightly with the bottom of a glass until cookie is about 1/2 inch thick. Repeat. Six cookies will fit on one 18″ x 13″ baking sheet.

Bake cookies for 10-12 minutes at 350 degrees.

Giant Lemon Sugar Cookies

Yield: 24 giant cookies

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  1. claudia

    …and don’t forget to stop and smell the lemons! the aroma always just blows me away. they also make great centerpieces like you show in that wonderful pic…

    10:22 pm  Aug 22nd, 2007
  2. Ruby Berry

    Umm, excuse me? Where is my cookie?

    Mmmmm, limoncillo (with an accent)!!!

    Beautiful pictures!

    10:24 pm  Aug 22nd, 2007
  3. Leah

    I’ve got a lemon tree in the yard and have been trying to think of what to do with all those lemons before the summer ends. Thanks!

    10:45 pm  Aug 22nd, 2007
  4. Lucy

    We have a tree heaving with lemons in the front garden at the moment and I am loving it.

    Your lemonade sounds like a wonderful thing.

    11:08 pm  Aug 22nd, 2007
  5. Erin

    Great post Nicole! Very end of summer appropriate. I also love adding lemon zest to blueberry muffins, but it also tastes really great with raspberries as well. Muffins just don’t taste “finished” to me anymore without a little zest.

    Also, I have two lemons sitting in the fruit bowl right now that are just dying to be made into lemon sugar cookies. Now I just need to work up the ambition!

    11:17 pm  Aug 22nd, 2007
  6. Lydia

    Lots of good lemon info here — and a delicious looking lemon cookie recipe!

    1:00 am  Aug 23rd, 2007
  7. amanda

    you are so right on. lemons really do equal summer! mmm those lemon sugar cookies sound awesome

    1:10 am  Aug 23rd, 2007
  8. Terry B

    Gret post, Nicole! Speaking of steamed vegetables, I love green beans with just a little butter and some lemon zest. Not only brightens the taste, but the little curls of zest add an elegant look.

    3:45 am  Aug 23rd, 2007
  9. Ruby Berry

    We squeeze lemons on our carne asada as it comes off the grill, gives it a zing! Also squeeze it on fish…

    4:05 am  Aug 23rd, 2007
  10. bea at La tartine gourmande

    Thank you for the great info Nicole. Love lemons, all forms!

    11:56 am  Aug 23rd, 2007
  11. Anali

    Yum! Giant cookies! ; )

    2:56 pm  Aug 23rd, 2007
  12. Curt

    I have a funny thing about lemons… My childhood dentist used lemon fluoride that tasted horrible, and I’m now very picky about lemon stuff… Too strong, and I can’t take it! 🙂

    My wife tried the microwave thing last year for the first time, and found it really works well. she also likes to put fresh lemon on veggie pizza.

    3:15 pm  Aug 23rd, 2007
  13. Patricia Scarpin

    I’m tagging this cookie recipe, Nicole – as a fan of citrus flavors, I have to bake them!

    4:15 pm  Aug 23rd, 2007
  14. Nicole

    Claudia: How could I forget to mention the smell! You’re right, the best part of using lemons is the aroma!

    Ruby: Weren’t you guys making some homemade limoncello? Now that you have the recipe, you can make the lemon cookies yourself! 🙂

    Leah: If you come up with some other ideas, please share them!

    Lucy: What do you like to do with your lemons?

    Erin: You’re right, lemon and raspberry is a perfect combination! I love raspberry lemonade!

    Lydia: Thanks for stopping by!

    Amanda: Thanks! I love sugar cookies and the lemon made them even better!

    Terry: Those green beans sound great, I’ll have to try that! We had squash last night with olive oil, lemon juice, parsley and feta cheese. So good!

    Ruby: Mmmm…carne asada! Now I’m craving Mexican food for lunch (again!)

    Bea: Thanks for stopping by!

    Anali: When it comes to cookies, the bigger the better!

    Curt: We used to have cherry or grape flouride…lemon doesn’t sound good at all! I’ve never thought about lemon on veggie pizza, but I be it’s good!

    Patricia: Hope you take photos when you make them!

    6:37 pm  Aug 23rd, 2007
  15. Katiez

    My favorite dressing for Spinach Salad is lemon and olive oil, both just drizzled over the top.
    Then theres Veal Piccata, Chicken stuffed with lemons….lemon merangue pie…I love lemons, sigh…
    What a gorgeous bowl of lemons!

    7:26 pm  Aug 23rd, 2007
  16. Cynthia

    Thanks for the tips and recipes.

    8:20 pm  Aug 23rd, 2007
  17. Kevin

    The lemon sugar cookies sound really good. Lemon is one of my favorite flavours and I find myself using it a lot.

    11:24 pm  Aug 23rd, 2007
  18. renee

    i absolutely love that photo of the lemons! thanks for the great tips! i can’t wait to try out your lemonade recipe.

    12:01 am  Aug 27th, 2007
  19. Lia Huber

    Yea lemons! Great subject Nicole, and lovely photo. Three of my favorite ways to use them are limoncello (of like mind with Ruby Berry ;-)); thinly grilled slices with fish; and battered and fried slices in a seafood fritto misto. Mmmmm.

    Thanks for the link, Nicole!

    4:47 pm  Aug 27th, 2007
  20. Nicole

    Katiez: Mmmm…your comment is making me hungry!

    Cynthia: You’re welcome, thanks for stopping by!

    Kevin: The cookies are soooooo good!

    Renee: The lemons in the photo are actually Meyer lemons, taken the last time I was in California (last fall). I love the photo too!

    Lia: Grilled lemon slices are great! I’ve never had them battered and fried though! Sounds good 🙂

    4:55 pm  Aug 27th, 2007
  21. sandi @ the whistlestop cafe

    I’ll have a sip of that limoncello as well! I have never tried fried lemons~ in the south we will fry just about anything. Maybe I sould give it a try!

    5:49 pm  Aug 27th, 2007
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  23. jann


    i went thru your recipes and find its worth a try. however, i could not figure our the measurement for the ingredients. is it in metric? could u please convert in in grams.


    4:50 am  Nov 26th, 2007
  24. Nicole

    Jann: You are right, I need to start converting my recipes so that they are more accessible to the rest of the world! All my recipes use standard American measurements, not metric. In the meantime, here is a link to a page that does automatic conversions for you. Cooking Conversion Online

    And here is a key for the abbreviations I use along with some basic conversions. All conversions are approximate:

    liquid ingredients:
    1 C. = 1 cup = 250ml
    1 T. = 1 tablespoon = 5 ml
    1 t. = 1 teaspoon = 15 ml

    1 cup = 16 tablespoons
    1 tablespoon = 3 teaspoons

    1 C. = 1 cup
    1 cup all purpose (white) flour = 115 grams
    1 cup whole wheat (whole meal or whole grain) = 125 grams

    1 C. = 1 cup
    1 cup = 200 grams

    1 C. = 1 cup
    1 stick = 1/4 cup
    1 cup = 250 grams

    8:15 am  Nov 26th, 2007
  25. sarah

    Can the dough be frozen so I don’t have to bake so many cookies right away? Thinking of Christmas cookie recipe & I think this is making my list… 🙂

    6:51 pm  Dec 3rd, 2007
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  33. znas10

    i wish i had read ur post 3 yrs backs when i had prepared a lemon tart…..i needed the juice and zest of abt 10-12 lemons…i was so lazy to remove the zest that i simply squeezed out the juice, cut the skin into cubes and added them to my tart…they were the sour-est tart id tasted….obviously not edible!! 🙂

    10:16 am  Nov 22nd, 2009
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  36. Nathan Cole

    Good post, thank you. I signed to your blog rss feed.

    3:12 pm  Dec 1st, 2010
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