With spring officially here, it is time for lighter flavors. Lemon figures heavily in many spring and summer dishes, but can quickly become overwhelming if you are not careful. Lemon is a common ingredient because of its distinctive flavor, but it is this strong flavor that can also ruin dishes. Both the outer rind and the juice can be used, but knowing when and how to use it, can make an amazing difference in how all of your dishes come out.
When lemon is the centerpiece of your creations as it is in a lemon meringue pie, you simply cannot go wrong. But what happens when you are cooking a delicate fish dish or adding a bit of lemon to your chicken salad? It is best to start small and work your way up.
Make sure to use a lemon zester or microplane grater when zesting lemon. Not only will it give you the most flavor (finely grated zest releases more flavor than larger strips), but it will help to ensure you do not go into white part of the lemon, called the pith, which is bitter.
When making a recipe that calls for lemon juice, make sure to always use fresh juice, and to zest the lemon before you juice it. Zesting release the lemons volatile oils, so your juice will have a more robust flavor.
Whether you are following a recipe or not, go light on the lemon juice until you are sure about the flavor it will impart on your dish. Taste before you add more if possible, if not taste a bit of the lemon juice to get a sense of how strong the flavor is. A little bit can go a long way, especially for those that like lemon more as an accent rather than the main flavor.