When Life Gives You Lemons, Make Dinner

January 16, 2018

We could talk forever about citrusy desserts. I would tell you about when I was little and my family ventured "Down Neck" to the Portuguese neighborhood of Newark and I ordered orange sorbet and it arrived in an actual orange. About when I was in college and I went to catered events only to snag lemon bars and scatter back to the library with my loot. About the chocolate-covered key lime pie that crossed paths with me in Key West and melted all over my clothes but stole my heart anyway (it was on a stick!).

But I don't want to talk about any of that. I want to talk about citrusy dinners. Which no one talks about enough and it's time we did.

Lemon and friends—lime, grapefruit, and orange—are the bright, colorful, seasonal saviors that our winter-worn bodies need. They perk up any cookie season sluggishness and get ahead of any flu season foolishness. And they're sour, sure. But that doesn't mean sugar always has to get involved. Instead of asking, What balances citrus? let's ask, What does citrus balance?

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A lot! Acidic ingredients cut richness (a lemon squeeze over fried fish), brighten savoriness (the French classic duck à l'orange), and tame saltiness (Japanese ponzu with yuzu and soy sauce). In other words, they're just what dinner wants. Here are 16 of our favorites:





What's your favorite savory citrus recipe? Tell us in the comments below!

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A New Way to Dinner, co-authored by Food52's founders Amanda Hesser and Merrill Stubbs, is an indispensable playbook for stress-free meal-planning (hint: cook foundational dishes on the weekend and mix and match ‘em through the week).

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Emma was the food editor at Food52. She created the award-winning column, Big Little Recipes, and turned it into a cookbook in 2021. These days, she's a senior editor at Bon Appétit, leading digital cooking coverage. Say hello on Instagram at @emmalaperruque.