(Note: this post was originally published on May 23, 2021. The date above reflects migration to the new platform.)
Caution: For Lemon Lovers Only
Please allow me to introduce you to the most magical, flavor-packed sauce I've created. Yes it's a bold statement, but well-deserved. This has been THE sauce in our house for the past couple months and I expect that trend will continue. It makes use of a very non-traditional ingredient... can you guess what it is?
This sauce needs a warning label that says "For true lemon lovers only" because it packs a serious tart punch. All that bright flavor comes from an ingredient that usually goes in the trash (or compost): the peel of the lemon! So in addition to being astoundingly delicious, this sauce also helps you use something that typically gets wasted.
The peel is really where the flavor is, but it's so strong (super tart! super bitter!) that it's difficult to use. Thankfully there's a secret trick to taming the lemon peel: it needs to be caramelized! When cooked, especially in the presence of oil, the peel mellows to become delightfully golden, crisp, and more complex. It's still a very strong flavor, which is why it excels in a sauce or spread, but the transformation is magical.
Taming the Lemon Peel
While this sauce takes a bit of patience, I promise you it's absolutely worth it. Dice up the lemon peel as small as you can get it, and cook it in generous olive oil. As it cooks, you'll smell the most amazing combination of citrus and caramelizing sugar; it's worth it for that smell alone!
Keep a very close eye on it and stir frequently, since the sugars in the lemon will want to burn. Watch as the magic slowly happens! The pieces of peel cook down and become beautifully browned. There's so much flavor in there! It's tart, bitter, toasty, and sweet all at the same time.
After that, the rest is easy. You'll just combine the lemon peel with lemon juice, apple cider vinegar, maple syrup (that sweetness is important!), turmeric, and salt, then blend it all into a delightfully decadent and creamy sauce.
This Sauce Belongs on EVERYTHING
What can you do with this sauce? The options are endless! We love it drizzled on top of grilled or roasted veggies. It works beautifully as a salad dressing base, with some additional components like balsamic and mustard mixed in. It's dynamite when stirred into still-warm whole grains like farro or wheatberries. Generally speaking, it goes beautifully with any Mediterranean or Middle Eastern flavor profiles.
If you're looking for a specific way to make this sauce really shine, drizzle it on top of farro and sauteed green beans, as shown below. Finish it with sumac, fresh mint, and blueberries for a wonderful, versatile spring meal or side dish. Or do the same concept, but with farro, cauliflower and almonds! Just remember: it's for true lemon lovers only!!
Let's Talk Ingredients
Here's what you'll need for this recipe, as well as some thoughts and tips.
Robustly-flavored olive oil. The olive oil plays a starring role here. Using a really flavorful, fragrant finishing oil will yield much better results than a more neutral cooking oil.
Apple cider vinegar
Turmeric. It depends on how much you love this golden ingredient! If you're a turmeric newbie, start small since it can have an intense flavor. If you love turmeric, then load it up!
Generous flaky sea salt
Modification: Using Leftover Lemon Peels
If you're like me, you always have lemon peels leftover after using the juice for some other application. If that's the case, no problem! Just follow the same recipe, swapping in additional apple cider vinegar instead of the lemon juice. This is a great way to minimize waste and turn those pesky excess lemon peels into something magical!
How many lemon peels do you waste each week? For me, it's at least several. Instead of throwing them away, make this sauce (or a double-batch!) and stash it away for any time you need a flavor boost. It will keep fine in the fridge for a couple weeks, or the freezer for many weeks. Make sure to check out the modification above for using peels that you've already juiced.
Because of its multi-dimensional flavors, this sauce can really transcend seasons. The lemon makes it feel right for spring and summer, but the caramelized and bitter notes make it feel right for fall and winter too. That versatility makes this sauce work year-round, which is good because I imagine you have leftover lemon peels year-round.
I have a feeling this sauce will pretty much always be in my fridge now. What about you??
It makes me so happy to hear from you and see your creations! Please leave a comment below and let me know what you think about this recipe. If you post a photo on Instagram, hashtag #TheRogueBrusselSprout and tag me (@TheRogueBrusselSprout) in the post text so that I'm sure to see it.
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Cut the lemon in half and juice it, then set the juice aside.
Remove the seeds from the lemon and discard. Then dice the lemon peel up into very small, even pieces. Try to cut them as uniformly as possible since otherwise some pieces will start to burn while others aren't cooked sufficiently.
Put the diced lemon peel and 2 tbsp olive oil into a sauce pan. Working over medium heat, cook the lemon peel until it is golden in color and softened. Keep a very close eye on it and stir frequently since the sugars in the lemon peel will want to burn. Don't let any parts of the lemon peel burn otherwise it will impart a bitter flavor (and yucky color!) to your sauce. Add more oil as needed to keep the lemon peel thoroughly moistened.
When the lemon peel is evenly caramelized, remove it from the heat and cool to room temperature.
Add the caramelized lemon peel and any residual liquid in the pan to a high-power blender. Add the juice of the lemon, the apple cider vinegar, maple syrup, turmeric, and a very generous few pinches of salt. Blend until you have a thick, smooth texture.
Taste it!! This is very important since lemons can vary greatly in their size and acidity. I like to let this sauce stay pretty bold and tart, but not overpoweringly so! Add more maple syrup until you're happy with the balance of sweetness and acidity. Likewise, you can add more turmeric if you want its flavor to be more pronounced. Re-blend after any additions.
Assess the thickness of your sauce. You want to be able to drizzle it onto a salad, a bowl, grilled veggies, etc. If it seems too thick, add a dash of water and re-blend.
Store your sauce in a sealed container. It will keep in the fridge for a week or two, and numerous weeks in the freezer. If it thickens as it sits, just stir in a dash of water to return it to your desired consistency.