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We have this neighbor who has been bringing us Meyer lemons from the tree of another neighbor. Huge fat juicy lemons, more than could be used. I grated the zest from all the lemons, dried it, put some in a jar by itself, mixed the rest with black pepper to make lemon-pepper. I froze the juice in ice cube trays and put the cubes in a freezer bag.

This week Carol brought us grapefruit – the best ruby red grapefruit ever, so sweet they needed no sugar, incredibly juicy, and enormous. My husband suggested I make her a pie.

I had made this pie for her last summer with a blueberry topping, and she really liked it. This week I bought the most fabulous strawberries from a roadside vendor, so I thought that would make a good topping. Made the pie, sliced the strawberries, took it to her. She was very grateful and she said she would take at least half of the pie to the woman whose lemons and grapefruit she had picked and given to us.

A couple of hours later Carol knocked on the door. She had taken 3/4 of the pie to the 92 year old woman who owned the fruit trees. The woman started to cry. In all the years she had given away the fruit from her trees, no one had ever given her a gift in return.

Recipe by David Zafferelli from The Open Hand Cookbook. I have slightly adapted it. This is similar to my other Lemon-Buttermilk Pie recipe, but I think I prefer this one.

This pie is for Angie.


  • 3 eggs
    3/4 cup sugar
    1/2 teaspoon salt
    1 tablespoon flour
    zest of 2 lemons
    4 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
    1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
    1 cup buttermilk
    4 tablespoons melted butter, cooled
    1 9-inch pie crust, pre-baked and cooled

Have all your ingredients at room temperature before you begin to keep the filling from curdling or separating.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Beat eggs by hand until light; slowly add the sugar while beating until you reach the ribbon stage (mixture falls from the spoon in a ribbon-like shape when lifted out). Do not be tempted to use an electric mixer here; it will make the filling too frothy,

Add in this order, beating after each addition: salt, flour, lemon zest, lemon juice, and vanilla. Then carefully stir in the buttermilk, then the melted and cooled butter.

Pour into the pre-baked pie crust. Bake at 400 for 10 minutes, then lower the oven temperature to 350 and bake another 15-25 minutes. The center of the filling should still be a little jiggly when you take the pie out of the oven; it will continue to cook as it cools.

When pie is cool, top with sliced strawberries. To make a pretty concentric design, start arranging berries in the center of the pie and work in a circle toward the edge. If you wish, warm 1/2 cup apricot jam and brush over the berries as a glaze.



Lemon pepper is one of those spices/condiments that most people love, buy a bottle of, then let it sit on the shelf until it solidifies and can’t be pried apart with a machete, which leads to it being thrown out. I’m guilty of this. But I think that wouldn’t happen if lemon pepper actually tasted like lemon + pepper. Commercially-produced lemon pepper tastes less like lemon and more like salt.

We were given a lot of Meyer lemons.


And this was after I had made lemon sauce, lemon curd, lemon pie, lemon salad dressing, lemon gin-and-tonics, and given away bags of lemons. Clearly it was time to take action.

So: take lemons and grate the zest from them. A microplane is ideal for this but a box grater works fine too.


Below: a zested lemon.


When you have grated the zest from the lemons, put the zest in a narrow bowl and grind in black pepper. Adjust the pepper grinder so you get fairly large pieces instead of finely ground pepper. How much to add? That’s up to you, whether you want a more lemony spice or a more peppery spice. I like more lemon, so for about 1/2 cup zest I added about 2 teaspoons ground pepper.


Then take something like a wooden spoon, and with the handle, mash the pepper into the lemon zest so it becomes infused.


Spread the lemon-pepper out on a sheet of waxed paper or foil, and let it sit out on the kitchen counter uncovered and undisturbed until the lemon zest is dry – one or two days.


When the zest is dry, store the lemon pepper in a small bottle. You will find it has an actual lemon/citrus taste very unlike the commercially produced brands. Use on absolutely anything, but it’s especially good on creamy soups, roast chicken, salads, Bloody Marys, steamed vegetables like broccoli and asparagus, fettucini alfredo, baked potatoes, mixed into garlic butter, on scrambled eggs, and probably on chocolate bunnies and Peeps chicks.

Now you have a lot of zested lemons left over, which will dry out rapidly unless dealt with severely. Juice them Рmy life has improved immeasurably since I discovered  this lemon juicer Рand pour the juice into ice cube trays.


Once you have lemon ice cubes, store them in a freezer bag. Slip a couple into cocktails, or use ¬†when you just need a little lemon juice but don’t want to cut open a whole lemon.

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