Monday, April 18, 2011

Savory Lemon Jam

Does it not look like magic? Because it is. Completely.
This recipe is magic. It just is. You basically toss raw lemons into a food processor with sugar, oil, and salt, and you end up with this bright and creamy sauce--the very essence of lemons--that's as good an accompaniment to asparagus or fish or cheese that I can think of. I actually want to make one of those fancy little savory goat-cheese cheesecakes (don't worry, I never will) and spread this over the top of it for serving with crackers. Gosh. Now I'm making myself crazy.

Wait until you try it, really. You're going to think: The whole lemon? Really? Where's the part where I remove the pitch and those membraney things? But you never do. I don't really understand why it's not bitter, but it's not: just perfectly sweet-and-sour, and so good just the way it is--as a sauce or dip--or else you can stir a little into a dish that needs brightening. I used leftovers in a chickpea salad this week, and it was totally fantastic. I have also mixed it fifty-fifty with mayo or sour cream to make a more dairyish dip, and that's good too.

I'm so happy to be posting this, because it's been on my list of things to tell you for over a year, but other recipes kept barging ahead, demanding to be written about. But here it is, now, which is all that really matters.

On an unrelated note: Did you want to know how old Ben is? I'll tell you. Ben's so old that we had to go out and buy him a protractor. Seriously. My baby! A protractor! I got a little weepy about that, which is not the most ridiculous thing I've ever wept about, but nor is it the least. I think I once cried because Birdy could just take a bite of an apple instead of needing me to sliver it into tiny unchokeable shards. My baby! Ah, life.

Savory Lemon Jam
Makes about 1 cup
Total time: 10 minutes

This is a recipe that I adapted from a book I checked out of the library, The Improvisational Cook, by Sally Schneider, and that she adapted from somebody else, I don't remember who…m. She makes it with oregano, which is not an herb I'm all that crazy about, so I make it with marjoram, which is an herb I would marry. (Why I won't marry Catherine Newman: the marjoram story.) I think it would be good with other herbs instead: lemon thyme is a kind of redundantly obvious choice, and I bet it would be great, or else basil or tarragon… or no herbs at all, which makes for a jam that tastes so fresh and lemony you'd put it on toast. Not that you wouldn't put this jam on toast too, but you might put this slightly savory, herb-flecked jam on toast that already had goat cheese on it, and then you'd die and go to heaven.

2 large lemons, preferably organic, scrubbed and dried
¼ cup sugar
½ teaspoon kosher salt (or half as much table salt)
¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
Freshly ground black pepper
1 tablespoon marjoram leaves, chopped--or another herb, or skip the herb

Cut the ends off the lemons--just about til you hit the flesh--and discard. Now cut each lemon lengthwise into 8 wedges, then remove the seeds and cut each wedge in half again crosswise. And then into 100 pieces widthwise, before dicing them sideways into millionths. (Do everything up until the last sentence.)
In a food processor, whir together the lemons, sugar, and salt, until chunkily pureed, then, with the motor running, drizzle in the olive oil to create a kind of thick, creamy, lumpy sauce. Add the herbs and pulse on and off until the sauce is flecked with green. Serve or chill.

Two lemons and some stuff you had anyway. Right? You don't even need the marjoram.

Isn't that so pretty?
Abracadabra kadoozy-kadam, wickety-wackety. . .
My boyfriend. Chopped marjoram.
It makes a fantastic dip, and it's especially great on asparagus. But the reason I was making it was to serve with salmon, and I'd fully intended to photograph that exquisite pairing--and it was exquisite--only then a bunch of people came over, and I drank, like, 45 beers, and it was all I could do to remember to serve everyone a meal, let alone photograph it. 

Luckily, I'd already photographed Mr. Ben dipping some lightly steamed asparagus.
Is it just me, or can you see why this was an outtake?


  1. I am really skeptical. I think that is why I want to try it.

  2. Ha ha! Ditto Misty!

    Also, a PROTRACTOR. Man. My most recent similar weep was when my baby, my tiny baby boy, hit 5 feet. I don't even know what to do about that. Also, he had to cover his books for school. COVER HIS BOOKS.

  3. Teafortwo10:15 AM

    That looks marvelous. I'll have to wait until the end of boot camp to try it. Finn has a classmate whose last name is Marjoram. I need to find a new marjoram plant for the garden. Apparently I killed the one I put in last summer. Ooops.

  4. ladidah la la11:05 AM

    hey, i'm sitting here laughing at your post. are you even funnier here on your own blog? maybe you didn't have the freedom in corporateland to say you were so trashed you forgot to photograph the salmon? maybe i'm imagining it? anyway, love it and will try this recipe because we are big with the salmon around here.

  5. Anonymous11:09 AM

    Looks great. I read your recipes every week and have never managed to try one. But I think I might be able to handle this one.

  6. Anonymous11:16 AM

    Can't stop laughing about the "outtake" caption at the end. This looks amazing. Love these super easy blow-your-mind foods.

    Thanks (a million times) for continuing your blog on here. Did you figure out a way to take up a collection? I really want to pay you.

  7. Anonymous11:19 AM

    Oh, dear. A protractor! I love these odd little milestones.

  8. You never disappoint Catherine Newman.
    I love lemony dips, especially of the sweet variety.

  9. Yum! Can't wait to try it. We make a similar whole raw orange and apple and cranberry relish for thanksgiving and I can second the fact that it is somehow not bitter, even when you use the whole citrus fruit.

  10. hahaha..limp asparagus...

    but seriously. i will try this with both asparagus and fish. looks really, weirdly, good.

    as an aside, i tried your mexican rice with trader joes brown basmati and it was perfect. fluffy and separate and chewily good all at the same time. but i just had to wonder as i looked at the nutritional info - why does it have so much less fiber than other brown rices? do you know, oh queen of the whole grains? anyway, it still has more good stuff than white rice, so it's a great compromise, i think. and a great recipe too. burritos with it last night and stuffed peppers today. yum.

  11. you made me laugh out loud again! this looks interesting and I will try it on salmon, my typical lemon/dill on salmon is getting pretty old. thanks catherine

  12. I've been reading you since Babycenter, and I love you. That's all I wanted to say, really. I love everything you write, even a crazy-looking jam recipe!

    But you sold me on it....I'm making it this weekend. Bam.

  13. Peel and all? Really? I am confident you are right, as your recipes have never failed at my house before. It's on the list for the weekend.

    The out-take photo made me laugh out loud (as usual). Very therapeutic for a Monday.

    My word verification was "undsesam"- which sounds like a spice... "And then you sprinkle some undsesam on top"

  14. I snarfed my sandwich out of my mouth laughing at both the cutting the lemons into 100 pieces then millionths, and at the limp asparagus, which made me giggle before I even read the caption (um, definitely not just you, thinking that one is an outtake). And finally, my word verification is doodom, which is definitely funny and needs a meaning, but I'm not sure where to go with it.

  15. Your adorable Ben. In about four years, will you drive over to my hometown with your handsome son and we can introduce him to my witty, wonderful, and beautiful daughter? Love the picture! (and just wait until you have to buy a scientific calculator!)

    Great recipe, asparagis popping freshly into our markets now. Can't wait!

  16. A protractor! Am I a terrible nerd to say I really remember my first geometry set and it was so freaking exciting?

  17. argh! Asparagus is, that's what I meant to say.

    And just for the record, Catherine, I asked first about Ben, so the other ladies with beautiful, witty, and wonderful daughters will have to wait. :)

  18. Trlica1:58 PM

    Perfect, I intend to serve asparagus on Easter, so now everyone at my Easter lunch will get to try it with this spritely jam!

  19. Anonymous3:39 PM

    Thank you - this looks really tasty. I am delighted that it does not have dairy, as we have some friends who are dairy-intolerant, and this would be a perfect side-dish side.


  20. melissa3:42 PM

    1. I am skeptical as well, but might try this because I trust you. Kale chips notwithstanding...
    2. My life is improved now that I have your updates on my homepage.
    3. While doing some spring purging-before-cleaning today, which is not at all barfing and which I swear I will get right back to, as soon as I leave this post, I came upon the quote I jotted down from you years ago about not letting a last time pass uncherished. Except you said it so much better. I will think of you with gratitude eternally for that wisdom.

  21. I am definitely saving this for the day when my neighbor says there are too many meyer lemons and I should just help myself. What more could I ask for?

  22. Anonymous6:10 PM

    Just today I wept because my youngest was able to grab something off the counter. To think he was tall enough to reach was just too much for me. I similarly wept when my middle daughter was able to put her dishes in the sink with out dropping them in, you know, just placing them on the sink bottom. Be still my heart! Like Melissa, I too remember the post from you referencing "last times". Thanks to you I always think, "This may be the last time he asks to be carried," or "This could be the last time he sneaks into bed with me," I best say YES and hold on tight!

    I love all things lemon and goat cheese. I can't wait to try this!

  23. This sounds like a great recipe! What a great entry! Protractor? Oh, what awaits us!

  24. This recipe came at a PERFECT time- I was literally opening my browser to look for asparagus recipes to bring to family Seder. I really wish my late mother-in-law (a fabulous cook, who bestowed the dubious honor of asparagus-side-bringer on me in 2000) could have tasted- and seen- the finished product- interesting and gorgeous! I even arranged it artfully, just like she would have done, rather than dumping it in a pile. (I used oregano- will try it next time with less sugar and some marjoram or lemon thyme, and maybe some spring garlic too.) Thanks- I always enjoy reading your posts.

  25. Anonymous11:34 PM

    your flaccid asparagus remind me of some erotic photos by robert mapplethorpe that i was looking at yesterday. no offense.

    and yes, i want that savory lemon jam in my belly.

  26. Does this mean I should finally break down and get a food processor? I was so strictly forbidden from touching it when I was little for fear that I'd slice off my fingers or something, that even now at age 40 (!) I have still never owned one!

  27. I want to make this today because I have all the ingredients, but I don't have anything to put it on! Catherine, how long do you suppose it will last in the fridge?

  28. Anonymous2:03 PM

    ^ to add to that question, how does it freeze?

  29. this is exactly why i read this blog, i would never ever have come across this recipe on my own! amazing, can't wait to try, i loooove lemon. can't believe ben needs a protractor, amazing!

  30. Yum. Was looking for something fresh to do with salmon - other than sprinkling it with that canned salmon seasoning that we all love so much.

  31. Okay, I just made it. Did you mention magic? It was totally magic. I mean, you have to like lemons, obviously. And I was complaining that I didn't have anything to put it on? I just stuck some wheat thins in it and it was insanely good. Now I have to go get some nice bread and some goat cheese!

  32. Anonymous10:14 PM

    This sounds too crazy to not try. Goat cheese toast, huh? It will have to be that or the asparagus because I don't like salmon one bit. I thought as a grown up you grew to like things that were good for you, but I can't get past salmon's potent fishiness.
    Congrats to Ben upon entering the world of protractors. I'm glad to hear protractors are still in use and we're not just text messaging circles to each other or liking them on Facebook.

  33. I happen to have some wild sockeye salmon in the freezer that's just been waiting for the right accompaniment to come along. Now if only the weather would be nice enough to grill...

    I made the salt-n-pepa shrimp last night, and it was a HUGE hit with three of us, and the 4th ate mac & cheese (as expected). Thanks!

  34. I made this yesterday after reading the post and am eating some right now on toast with ricotta cheese, I love it! I'll try it with goat cheese, too, when I have some. It'll probably be even better...Thanks for the great recipe.

  35. Right after the "last times" reminder, I realized it had been over a week since I'd had a before-bed "chair snuggle" with my son. And I felt incredibly blessed when I went in to kiss him good night and he said, "Mommy? Can we chair-snuggle tonight?" and I'm weepy just thinking about it. Of COURSE we could. And while the chair creaked under us, I committed it to memory, and my arms still feel how it was to hold him and rock. Thank you for that reminder. Thank you for that memory.

  36. Made it. Liked it. Slightly too sweet for me. I think next time I will halve the sugar and love it. I also drizzled the olive oil over my keyboard. But the computer still works. So that is good.

  37. Anonymous7:36 PM

    Made this tonight with tarragon to serve with artichokes. Good, but sweeter than expected. The "savory" part of sweet and savory made me think preserved lemons, so I was thinking saltier. Next time I might try with a little less sugar and a little more salt.

  38. Jennifer LB12:22 AM

    I should know better by now....ALL the recipes I've tried of yours have been big hits. This one was no exception. We had asparagus and salmon with the lemon jam today (also spanakopita, macedonian strudel and greek salad). It made for a FABULOUS Easter brunch. Thanks for the inspiration.

  39. I ate it with a spoon.

  40. MmeFab3:16 PM

    Made it and served it on scones with whipped cream and swooned from the heavenly-ness. Thank you for another great recipe!!!

  41. Anonymous12:30 PM

    I read this post again right now, and when you typed "my boyfriend" under the marjoram, I busted out laughing!