Get Inspired by the Flavor and Beauty of the Lemon

Main squeeze.

  • Category
    Eat & Drink, Homes
  • Written, photographed and produced by
    Kara Mickelson

When the world feels topsy-turvy, we are reminded of the time-honored saying: “If life gives you lemons, make lemonade.” We think that’s perfect advice as we ease into spring after two stressful years.

Lemons symbolize light and energy, guiding us toward harmony and balance. The vibrant color of the lemon is often associated with the warmth of the sun, freshness, happiness and cheer. It’s also a noble hue that draws in our focus, highlighting what’s in front of us.

Here, a few tips on using these bright babies to freshen up drinks, add a burst of flavor to homemade vinaigrette and a pop of color to a festive table.

Bright Sunny Daze

Our tablescape (main image, top) draws inspiration from the vibrant hue of the lemon—and the California coastline. The Amina Portuguese place setting by Crate & Barrel and copper cutlery radiate varied hues of warm sand tones, the sea and iridescent coral. Repurposed cloth placemats were hand-painted with Soft Buttercup by Behr Paint. Delicate ranunculus and other scattered fresh florals complete the sunny vibe.

Sparkling Lychee Lemonade

Makes approximately 4¾ cups

The lychee syrup provides just the right amount of sweetness to balance the tart lemons. Add the seedless lychees to each drink—like nature’s version of boba—or save them for an exotic fruit salad or breakfast fruit bowl.

  • 1 (8.1-ounce) can seedless lychees in syrup (found in Asian or specialty markets)
  • ¼ cup fine white baker’s or castor sugar
  • 1½ cups freshly squeezed lemon juice (about 8 lemons)
  • 2 cups sparkling mineral water
  • 1 whole lemon, ¼-inch-thick slices
  • fresh thyme sprigs, one per drink as garnish
  • 1 cup seedless lychees, optional

Strain lychee syrup into a pitcher or tall container, reserving lychees. Stir sugar into lychee syrup until fully dissolved. Stir in lemon juice. Chill in refrigerator for two hours or overnight. Add sparkling water to pitcher just before serving. Add additional sugar or lemon juice as desired. Garnish with fresh-sliced lemons, thyme sprigs and lychees.

Tip: To get the most juice from the lemons, roll them on a hard, flat surface. While rolling, add medium pressure with the palm of your hand to break up the pulp and release more juice. Cut the lemons horizontally down the center. Place half of a cut lemon into a lemon press or hand juicer.

Grow your own: Plant a lemon tree to reap the benefits of this fresh fruit. A potted dwarf lemon tree can thrive on a sunny patio or in a small space and will provide a generous supply of fresh lemons. Meyer lemons, a cross between a lemon and a mandarin orange, provide an extra-sweet flavor and are less acidic.

Intensify the flavor: Get your hands on an organic lemon and finely grate the skin. The skin adds even more flavor to a recipe.

Lemon, Garlic & Shallot Vinaigrette

Makes ½ cup

This flavorful homemade vinaigrette can be made up to three days in advance. 

  • 1 tablespoon sherry vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon champagne or apple cider vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon plus 1½ teaspoons fresh lemon juice (about 1 lemon)
  • 2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
  • ¼ cup plus 1 tablespoon mild olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon minced shallot 
  • 1 medium garlic clove, minced
  • ⅛ teaspoon granulated garlic powder
  • ⅛ teaspoon ground black pepper
  • ⅛ teaspoon ground white pepper
  • ¼ teaspoon kosher salt

Combine vinegar and lemon. Slowly whisk in mustard and then olive oil, about a tablespoon at a time, until fully incorporated. Whisk in shallot, garlic, garlic powder, both peppers and salt. Season to taste. Refrigerate. Whisk before serving. Drizzle on lettuce salads, grain salads with vegetables, fish or grilled veggies.

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