Back in the nineties, when I first read Annie Somerville’s ahead-of-its-time Fields of Greens cookbook, I couldn’t understand why Meyer lemons kept popping up everywhere. Growing up on the East Coast, I’d never seen one before and felt slightly annoyed by the specificity. Lemons were lemons, weren’t they? When I moved to California and got my hands on some, I finally understood: Meyer lemons are a delicate-skinned hybrid of lemon and mandarin orange, and everything about them is tasty—skin, flesh, even pith. They give recipes a distinctive tangy, floral flavor. When I worked for a short while at Chez Panisse, we would add minced lemon skin, pith, and zest to many of our vinaigrettes, and to this day I do the same in the winter and spring, when Meyer lemons are plentiful. If you cannot get Meyer lemons in your grocery, you can use 2 teaspoons of the finely grated skin of a conventional lemon instead, but just the bright yellow skin; conventional lemons have a bitter pith.
white wine vinegar or Champagne vinegar
plus 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
fine sea salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
In This Recipe
Cut the pointed ends off 1 lemon and stand it vertically. Using fluid, curved, downward knife strokes, slice off a swath of skin, pith, and about 1/8 inch of the interior flesh of the lemon. Repeat until all the skin is removed. Finely chop the fleshy skin to make 2 tablespoons total and add it to a medium bowl with the shallot.
Squeeze the interior flesh of the peeled lemon to gather any juice, and if necessary, juice the remaining lemon to make a total of 2 tablespoons juice. Whisk the juice into the shallot mixture and stir in the vinegar. Let sit for at least 10 minutes.
Gradually whisk in the oil and season to taste with salt and pepper.
Do ahead: The dressing will keep 3 to 5 days in the refrigerator. If it loses some zing during storage, add a bit more lemon juice or vinegar to brighten it up.