Citrus in winter: lemon curd and winter citrus salad with warm bacon dressing

Happy 2013!  Are you sick of winter already?  I am.

It has been unusually cold in San Francisco, and when I visited my mom over the holidays, the temperature dropped to 24 degrees.  I’m bored with root vegetables, to say nothing of pumpkin and squash.  Go away, comfort food and freezing weather.  I demand berries and green beans and asparagus.

(Says the spoiled Californian, as my mother’s garden still produces carrots, broccoli, and lemons in below-freezing temperatures.)

The only thing winter has going for it is citrus and pomegranates, which were both featured in our Christmas dinner salad.  I also took home several dozen lemons from Mom’s prolific tree — some to give away, some to keep for myself.  Although Mom doesn’t think her lemons are Meyer lemons, they have that same thin skin, balanced tartness, and are obscenely juicy.

For a salad that tastes bright and bacon-y in the dead of winter, I always use this base recipe from Epicurious.  It’s incredibly flexible: you can use whatever greens you like, whatever kind of light vinegar (I used pineapple vinegar once) you have on hand, and add whatever fruit or sweet vegetables you like.  I’ve made it with pears, oranges, berries, beets — you name it.  For Christmas dinner, I used frisee, butter lettuce, and red-leaf lettuce.  The dressing was made with apple cider vinegar, and it was tossed with clementine slices and pomegranate arils.  Despite the crumbled bacon, and bacon fat in the dressing, the result is sweet, sharp, and savory.

If you want something with more of a dessert kick, look no further than buttery, sweet, tart lemon curd.

Ina Garten’s recipe is foolproof (not to mention that I love when a recipe makes exactly as much as it says it will), though I always end up zesting the lemons with a microplane rather than using a food processor.  If you’ve never had it, lemon curd can be used on biscuits, toast, and scones, as well as baked into tarts and cheesecakes.  Because of the butter and eggs, it should be refrigerated and used within two months — not that I think you’ll have any problem with that.

What’s your favorite use for winter citrus?

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