Winter Citrus, Revisited

This is a story about winter citrus. More specifically, it’s a story about finding a day to play in a photo studio, complete with beautiful props and gorgeous styling. It’s a story dedicated to free form (there are no recipes here!), to abundant light, to taking it slow and easy during the new year, but mostly it’s a story about bright happy little fruit that inspires me.

As we enter another year (and I blog another year longer), I always come to citrus in January. Maybe because citrus represents the best of what the world has to offer. Maybe it’s the fruit’s inherent sparkle, the zing it brings to all things sweet and savory. Maybe because it’s not necessarily fleeting, but like a good strong friend that makes you smile because you know it has your back. Am I anthropromorphizing too much? Indeed I am. But I can’t help it. I guess I’m just tapping into the thousands and thousands of years that we have embraced lemons, limes, and oranges, and they are as much a part of our world as the air that we breathe.

It’s also a story about the things we like to make using citrus.

I develop a certain kind panic when I realize I’m out of lemons in my kitchen. Next to garlic, some sea salt and a few good knives, I feel like I should always have lemons on hand just in case. A quick search of my archives reveals why: lemon cupcakes, lemondrops (the adult cocktail, thankyouvermuch), lemon roasted just-about-anything, vinaigrettes, sparking sodas, my list goes on. Swap the lemon for a pomelo or blood orange and I’ll keep going. I can’t stop. The following ideas and recipes are ways we love to use citrus at home. And like I mentioned before, there are no recipes, and I hope that’s ok with you. Consider these images as starting points for future kitchen excursions. It’s January, we should all take it easy for just a little while longer, don’t ya think?

Mini Lemon Meringue Cupcakes

Yes, I am starting with dessert first. Begin with lemon or vanilla cupcakes, scoop out a tiny bit of the center, pipe in lemon curd and top with Italian meringue. Torch the top ever so slightly. Devour like a madman. Oops, that was me, sorry.

 Raw Vegetable Salad with Lemon Vinaigrette

You can feel the crunch now, can’t you? Raw, crisp veggies and a handful of garbanzo beans drizzled with  a vinaigrette made with lemon juice, champagne vinegar, shallots, olive oil, Dijon mustard, a teensy amount of grated lemon peel, a pinch of sugar. It could not be easier. And you know how I feel about pre-made dressings and vinaigrette. Why would you when this is just so easy? Bonus points: you can use this as a dip and on sandwiches and subs.

Lemon Meringue Cake

Hey, this looks familiar, don’t it? That’s right. A buttercake is layered with lemon curd, once again topped with meringue and torched. It was as delicious as it was pretty.

Pink Lemonade

Pink lemonade is your standard lemonade with a splash of cranberry juice for color. It’s how it gets its pink. I’m all for it, but I like to add a small amount of grapefruit juice for tartness and – in the tiniest amount possible – a pinch of sea salt. Too much ruins it, just a tiny bit adds some depth. You must have plenty of ice. Must.

 Oven Roasted Trout

Sliced lemon wedges, sprigs of thyme, sea salt, whole trout. Dinner is served. And as a whole fish kind of guy it’s moments like this when I value a really great relationship with a fishmonger. Although I’m no stranger to getting out there and catching it myself. Lemon and fish is a natural combination but you know what’s a better combo? This dish and my mouth.

Lemon Roasted Chicken

Oh, you beautiful bird, you. The stuff simple and easy dinners are made of. We always roast our chicken with slices of lemon (with larger halved lemons inside the cavity), shallots, salt, pepper, and just about any kind of fresh herb you have on hand. You can make it even better by making a gravy from the lemony pan drippings. And you see those potatoes? They’re roasted red potatoes topped with ricotta and lemon zest. Roast first, give ‘em a squeeze to break them open, top to your heart’s content. Literally a perfect dinner.

Candied Citrus Cake

Something that couldn’t be easier but with fantastic citrus flare. A traditional butter cake with candied lemon, orange, and blood orange slices with spoonfuls of syrup.  To candy the citrus slices, boil and rinse three times to reduce bitterness then simmer in a mixture of equal parts sugar and water for 45 minutes, until translucent. Arrange cooled slices on top of the cake and spoon over the syrup.

Lemon Cupcakes with Vanilla Buttercream

What? Yet another sweet treat? That’s right. Because we were inspired by citrus sweets while at the studio we didn’t mind going into sugar-overload. Just use common sense, please. These cupcakes use plenty of lemon juice and zest in the cake, with just a very simple vanilla buttercream on top along with some happy sprinkles. Bright and happy, just like I like my desserts.

 How do you like to use citrus?

Many thanks to my gorgeous better half who styles with such grace and flair. Thanks to Found Vintage Rentals for the amazing furniture props. I live for these creative playdates! All photos and prop styling by yours truly.


  1. says

    I’ve recently preserved or candied whole clementines for the first time and am thrilled with the results. They’re my favourite of the sweet orange citrus fruits and I love the way you can place a whole, glistening orange onto the plate, and it breaks open to the spoon, oozing syrup. I want to try the same thing on thin-skinned lemons and limes soon… will see how it goes.

    I’m going to be blogging the clementines in the next week or so. May do same for lemons and limes at a later date.

    I love your cut out letters of citrus peel!

  2. Holly S says

    Made the roasted sweet potatoes with orange zest and ancho chile powder form the Bon Appetit food lovers cleanse two nights ago and the orange zest completely rocked my world – totally changed the sweet potatoes for me! I sliced them thinner than the recipe called for and baked them and they were like sweet, orangey little pieces of good-for-you candy. Love the citrus!

  3. says

    Oh Matt. What a beautiful post and round up of ways citrus can be highlighted during the winter. And tell that handsome stylist of yours: Exquisite!

  4. says

    This is so beautiful, Matt! Love the post, love the photos.
    Over the holidays my mom went to Florida, and brought back for me bright beautiful oranges and grapefruit fresh from the trees. January is such a great month to celebrate citrus, and you SO do it justice!

  5. says

    These gorgeous photos make for an uplifting start to the New Year!

    (However, I’m giving you 5 demerits each for use of the words “literally” and “perfect” plus another 2 demerits for using them in the same sentence. You may work off these demerits by express mailing me an order of those potatoes with ricotta and lemon zest.)


  6. says

    Phew!! It is very reassuring that someone else is as enamored (ok, obsessed) with lemons and all things citrus! And don’t worry Matt, I have the same reaction if my lemon supply is in question!!
    Just when I think you guys can’t top what you’ve already achieved, you go and prove me wrong – in a most delicious and gorgeous way, of course!
    There isn’t enough space here to talk about what I like to make with lemons but if I had to offer one thing, it would be preserved lemons.That intense, briny, citrusy, and tangy hit of the peel is sometimes exactly what’s needed to lift a dish from ok to outstanding!
    Wishing you and Adam a 2012 filled with joy, happiness and success – I cannot wait to see what you two create this year!

  7. says

    Oh, stop. You two are TOO MUCH!!

    What a gorgeous and inspiring and tempting post! It made me so envious. Oh, to spend the day with you two in the studio playing ; )

    Citrus! Color! Flavor! Props! Light! Srinkles! What fun!

    PS: I have the same panic when I don’t have lemons on hand. And oranges and limes, for that matter.

  8. says

    What a beautiful post!!! Love the Candied citrus cake…
    You both make a great couple in work and in life… These photos are a piece of art!

  9. says

    Every single picture in this post is just so light, bright, cheery…and happy! If fruit pictures can show expression, these are saying happiness and sweetness and lightness and even if it is snowing or cold or winter doldrum-ey in someone’s corner of the world, these pics would snap anyone out of their funk.

    That piped meringue and the first pics with the cut out letter…omg. Too cute!!!

  10. Nancy Leon Ramal says

    Very Nice your site, and the winter Citrus is very nice, is posoble yuo can share the recipes too, it be wonderful if you can, Than you so much and Happy new year an many many blesses on this 2012.

  11. says

    Unbelievable, Matt. Absolutely gorgeous! I am truly honored that my furniture was anywhere near all of this beauty. The colors are inviting and calming…and I want to eat every bit of it. Oh, and I couldn’t agree more about taking it easy just a little while longer…beautifully written.

  12. Radina says

    Beautiful photos, Matt! And I love your writing – so evocative and playful. Truly a pleasure to read! Though I have to admit, I’m lost on citrus fruit – I’ve never really cooked with them, other than the occasional dollop of lemon juice here and there. But you’re making me reconsider…

  13. says

    Oh boy did I have so much FUN looking at this post. Not only are the nibbles oh so tempting, but the props. styling, photos & energy are thrilling. I can tell what a great time you both had working one this. Each and every image is a citrusy treat. That little step stool with the cupcakes is precious :)
    All of it. Love.

  14. Elizabeth says

    Matt, I am absolutely in love with those cut out citrus letters, gorgeous.

    I definitely agree about lemons (and limes). I ALWAYS have them on hand as I use them in everything from drinks to dressings, desserts and entrees. I recently got a new cookbook from my wonderful hubby (Mourad: New Moroccan) and I cannot wait to make preserved lemons!

    Fantastic photos, styling and food as always!

  15. says

    I love how you always inspire!
    My dad, who lives in Ventura, sends me flat rate boxes of Meyer lemons when his tree gets full (I live in Carson City (by Tahoe)) and I JUST got a box, so thanks for the terrific ideas to work with! :)

  16. says

    we LOVE citrus as well – never without a lemon in the produce bowl & plenty of red, pink or plain ol’ grapefruit this time of year to squeeze for greyhounds! happy 2012!

  17. England Furniture says

    Thanks for this post about winter citrus. The mini lemon meringue cupcakes look wonderful.

  18. says

    is there a way to get the recipies for thos lovely cupcakes? I am also looking for some new fresh and beautiful ideas to please my family… The pics were so amazing I fell in love with them right away. Joey (Puerto Rico)


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