The Ingredient You Should Use More Often

(Image credit: Apartment Therapy)

We’re all used to seasoning our food with salt and pepper. You see instructions for such in most recipes you come across. And maybe you’ve even gotten used to your favorite blend of herbs and spices. But there’s another ingredient that could brighten up most of your recipes this season, both sweet and savory.

That ingredients? Lemons! On Slate recently, writer Lee Havlicek noted that the best way to use lemons in the kitchen is to use them in, well, everything. She says, “Lemons are as crucial a flavor-enhancer as salt. But while salt is a mainstay in even the worst stocked pantries, lemons are often tragically overlooked.”

Lemons brighten up a tomato sauce and add more complexity to baked goods. They can turn a plain yogurt into a sauce for pork or chicken and turn an average summer berry pie into a true stunner. Interestingly, there’s a lot of science behind it as well: Havlicek actually describes how salty and sour flavors work much the same way on the tongue, and both draw out the natural flavors of food.

So why are lemons so neglected? Perhaps people associate them with only specific flavor marriages and think “tart” and “sour” when it comes to using them. They’re also certainly more expensive than table salt. But Havlicek insists they’re actually hard to use wrong, urging us all to “start letting lemons make your life better.”

I have been experimenting with adding zest and even juice to many of the things we’ve been making at home lately and have had some fun using zest in savory recipes. I added lemon and ginger to fried rice we made yesterday morning and loved the complexity, and made a saucy tomato chicken with lots of fresh lemon. I just might be sold. How about you?

(Image: Megan Gordon)