On the Sixth Day of Christmas, with still over 7 pounds of Meyer lemons left from my citrus order orgy, I made Réunion Island Lemon and Onion Salad.
In winter, I often hunger for bright spicy flavors to liven up the stews and braised dishes that are characteristics of this time of the year. Which is often when I return to my roots of Reunion Island, when I particularly reach into the spice cabinet for pungent curcuma, floral vanilla beans, fresh ginger and other flavors reminiscent of Reunion Island. Truth be told, I use those flavors all year long, but I crave them in winter.
On Réunion Island, this salad (which would be called “Rougail” or “Sauce”) would be served with fish curry or shrimp (or lobster) curry or grilled whole fish or other seafood. I also like it with rich meats where the sharpness of the lemons and onions cut through: pork roast (like a whole fresh roasted ham), in a ham sandwich or with a grilled cheese sandwich (especially one made with pungent cheese). It’s good with just about everything where you want a mellow sourness!
Reunion Island Lemon and Onion Salad
- 2 large untreated/unwaxed organic lemon (I like Meyer lemons as they have little pith)
- 1/2 a large or 1 medium yellow onion (enough to weigh as the 2 lemons/ about 100 g or 3.3 oz)
- 1 teaspoon sea salt
- 1/3 cup olive oil or grapeseed oil (more if needed)
- 1/2 oz fresh ginger root*
- fresh chili pepper to taste *
- 1 tablespoon each finely minced fresh cilantro leaves and fresh parsley leaves
- Gently squeeze some of the juice from the lemons and reserve (this makes it easier to slice juicy lemons). Thinly slice the lemons and the onions – as thinly as you can – and put them in a non reactive bowl. Salt and let rest for at least an hour, two better, at room temperature to give the onions and lemons a chance to sit for a few hours to mellow.It’s wonderful what happens to the onions.
- Mash the ginger and chile peppers together into a paste. Add to the onion/lemon mixture along with the reserved lemon juice & olive oil. Mix well. Taste and add more oil if you wish.
*Note: If you do not have ginger or fresh chile peppers on hand, substitute some Reunion-Style hot sauce (which is what I did, this being December when all my chiles are dried or sauced, and when I have exhausted my stash of fresh garden ginger in the last 2 batches of lime pickles). You could also use Vietnamese-style hot sauce. How much to add? to taste, depending how spicy you want it. It should be spicy enough to be noticed but not so hot that it burns your mouth. For me that’s a comfortable tablespoon.
The salad will keep for a few days in the fridge. In fact, I like it best the second day.
The Seventh Day of Christmas (January 1st ). Clear and sunny in the morning when we take a walk in the hollow. Alas! True winter is on the way, that nice view of The Shenandoah Mountain soon obscured by dark clouds brought by a Nordic cold front.
I may as well cook, right? How about Lemon Confit? My batch did not turn out as pretty as the picture shown in the Saveur recipe. Because Meyer lemons are so juicy and have a thin skin, it’s hard to have slices that stay together when cooked. Tasty nonetheless! And fast.
In the evening I poach Meyer lemons to start the marmalade process. Stay tuned!