Years ago, I learned a savory uncooked Lemon and Oregano Jam from Mario Batali. By some magical chemistry, grinding a whole lemon in a food processor with a pinch of salt and oil produced a thick, light intensely flavored “jam” which he served with roasted fish. (It is also great with veal chops, pork and chicken). Once I learned the basic formula, I found myself improvising on it endlessly, trying different herbs, flavorings, and oils…
And then, suddenly, I took a sharp turn and tried making a dessert version with lemons, Meyer Lemons and Mineola tangelos. Eureka! Mario’s jam-turned-sweet became the base for endlessly riff-able citrus desserts. My favorite are Lemon or Tangelo Parfaits which evoke the flavors of Creamsicle, the beloved ice-cream pop of 1950’s childhoods. Here for easy weekend riffing are the recipes for Mario’s Savory Lemon Jam, the Lemon or Tangelo Jam, and Parfaits.
Recipe: Lemon-Oregano Jam
Makes about 1 cup
2 large lemons, preferably thin-skinned, 4 to 5 ounces each
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon coarse/kosher salt
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, or more to taste
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 to 4 tablespoons loose oregano leaves, or other herbs, such as 1 to 2 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves, or 1/4 teaspoon finely chopped lavender
Slice and pit the fruit: Cut the tough ends off the lemons and discard. Cut each lemon lengthwise into eighths, removing the pits as you go; cut each slice in half crosswise.
Puree the fruit with sugar, salt and oil: Transfer to a food processor and add the sugar, salt. Process to a coarse puree. With the motor running, drizzle in the olive oil until creamy.
Add flavorings: Add the pepper and oregano leaves, and puree until you have a thick “jam” with little flecks of green herb. Adjust the seasoning. The jam should have just enough salt to heighten the flavor, without your being aware there is salt.
Recipe: Sweet Lemon or Tangelo Jam
This instant, vividly flavored citrus jam is great on breakfast breads, pancakes and French toast. It is thick enough to fill plain cakes and sublime on, or layered with, vanilla ice cream. Because the jam thickens as it sits, make it within a half hour of serving. To thin, beat in a few teaspoons of water or orange juice.
2 lemons or small Mineola tangelos (about 5 ounces each)
About 8 tablespoons sugar for lemon jam; 5 to 6 tablespoons sugar for tangelos
Pinch coarse/kosher salt
3 tablespoons grapeseed, canola or almond oil
1/8 to 1/4 teaspoon orange flower water (optional)
Cut the tough ends off the lemons or tangelos and discard. Cut each fruit lengthwise into eighths, removing any pits as you go; cut each slice in half crosswise. Transfer to a food processor and add 5 to 6 tablespoons sugar, and a pinch of salt; process to a coarse puree. With the motor running, drizzle in the oil and orange flower water if you like; let the motor run a minute or 2 until you have a thick “jam”.
Lemon or Tangelo Parfaits
Layer Lemon or Tangelo Jam with fine vanilla ice cream into tall, narrow glasses to make adult parfaits: tart and slightly bitter from the abundance of citrus peel, balanced by the creamy texture and mellow sweetness of the ice cream. It is a cross between citrus ice cream and a Creamsicle. The jams can also be mixed with crème fraiche or whipped cream to make an ethereal, mousse-like filling for plain cakes and butter cookies.
Lemon or Tangelo Jam (recipe above)
1 pint vanilla ice cream, slightly softened
Just before serving, spoon about a tablespoon of lemon jam into each of four tall, narrow glasses; top each with about 2 tablespoons of ice cream, then another tablespoon of the jam, alternating ice cream and jam until you’ve used all of them; the top layer should be ice cream. (Don’t worry if the parfaits begin to melt a little; they are better that way.) Serve at once.