Early spring is the toughest season of the year if you love to cook with vegetables as I do. By mid-March, I’m so ready for the exuberance of spring. Problem is, I can’t find much locally except greenhouse-grown baby greens and the last bit of winter’s root crops.
Thankfully, the citrus season is still going strong in other parts of the country: the cheerful, sunny fruits make the journey to our market shelves, which now are overflowing with lemons, oranges, grapefruits and a myriad of exotic tangerines.
As for me, I don’t even have to go to the market to get lemons. Every month I receive a box of plump and fragrant lemons from my father (and even occasionally from my good friend Kristy) who live in Southern California. He has an enormous lemon tree in his backyard, which tirelessly produces a massive crop every year.
Every time I open that box I marvel: the scent of a fresh lemon is so floral, its zest so tangy and its juice so tingly. A lemon enlivens everything you cook with it. This little fruit has so much to offer and so much to give that I don’t waste a drop of its juice or an inch of its skin.
With all these marvelous attributes, it’s not surprising what a single lemon can do for a dish. Aside from using my father’s lemons in vinaigrettes, sauces, cocktails and desserts, I also like to roast them with baby red potatoes. Their transformative power on the humble tubers is remarkable. Add garlic and bay leaves and the roasted potatoes become tangy, earthy and just succulent.
There’s something to be grateful for here, while we wait for the new season to get underway: a little lemon can brighten up a dish — and be the bridge we so need from winter to spring.
Roasted baby red potatoes with lemon and bay leaves
active time: 15 min
- 2 1/4 lbs (1 kg) baby Red Bliss potatoes – unpeeled and cut in 1/2″ slices
- 6 large garlic cloves – unpeeled
- 1 lemon – cut crosswise in 1/8″ slices
- 4 fresh or dried bay leaves
- 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- 1 teaspoon sea salt or to taste
- freshly ground black pepper to taste
- Preheat the oven to 450ºF (232ºC).
- Place the potatoes, garlic, lemon slices and bay leaves in a non-stick roasting pan large enough to hold the ingredients in a single layer. Drizzle with the olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Toss well. Cover tightly with aluminum foil and bake for 25 minutes until potatoes are tender. Remove foil. Toss the potatoes again. Return to oven, uncovered, and bake for 20 to 25 additional minutes, until the potatoes are golden-brown, tossing once. Remove from heat and serve immediately.