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Lemons (Recipe: shrimp, lemon, herb and feta macaroni and cheese)

Shrimp, lemon, herb and feta mac and cheese 

I will never be tall.

I always wanted to be tall, Brooke Shields tall, so I could be in the back row of group photos, and hang on to the strap on the New York subway without standing on tiptoe, and not care if tall people sit in front of me in theaters, which they always seem to do.

I will never be fluent in French or Chinese.

I will never be a trapeze artist, a cartoonist, an electrician, a pig farmer or a dentist.

And I will never be a locavore.

To be a locavore in New England -- a person who eats only what is produced within one hundred miles of home -- I'd have to give up coffee, shrimp and lemons.

I will never.

Lemons aren't local to New England; native to northwest India or China, they're cultivated primarily in the United States (California, Arizona and Florida), Italy, Spain, Greece, Israel and Turkey.

Eureka and Lisbon are the most common varieties; in my local grocery stores, the lemon varieties are never labeled. Eureka has a textured skin, a short neck at one end, and a few seeds; Lisbon has a smoother skin, no neck, and is seedless. In terms of flavor, they're the same.

When you choose lemons, go for ones that are firm but with relatively thin skin. Press gently on the midsection; if there's absolutely no give, the skin is thick relative to the size of the fruit. Thinner skinned, heavy lemons hold the most juice.

Lemon zest and Microplane grater

Make sure the lemon is not blemished or shriveled, especially if you plan to use the zest (outer layer of the skin that contains the oils and perfume). My favorite zesting tool is a Microplane rasp; it's inexpensive and easy to clean, and makes quick work of zesting citrus fruits, as well as grating cheese or chocolate.

Zest lemons before juicing them. Room temperature lemons will yield more juice, so if your lemon is cold, after you zest it, pop it into the microwave for a few seconds. Then, press down gently but firmly and roll the lemon back and forth on the counter top a few times. You'll be amazed at how much more juice comes out.

Lemons do continue to age after they're harvested, so if you're not planning to use them right away, store them in the refrigerator to slow the aging process. I usually keep some in a bowl on my kitchen counter for up to a week, and more in the refrigerator for up to a month.

While most every cuisine uses lemon (or lime, in countries like Mexico that don't grow lemons), the flavor has become closely associated with Greece, in dishes like braised green beans with lemon, skate with a lemon caper sauce, slow roasted leg of lamb, Greek chickpea soup with lemon and olive oil. I love lemon's bright flavor in lemon-yogurt cake, lemon cupcakes, and snickerdoodle lemon ice cream sandwiches, too.

So, please don't ask me to give up lemons, just because they're not from here.

I will never.

Shrimp lemon herb and feta mac and cheese

Shrimp, lemon, herb and feta macaroni and cheese

This mac and cheese, developed for the Wisconsin Milk Marketing Board's new mac and cheese blog, is a mac and cheese that takes you somewhere with each bite. Though the ingredients include Japanese bread crumbs and Italian pasta, the combination of feta, lemon and herbs will transport you to the Greek Isles. Shrimp are sold by the number per pound; this recipe calls for 31-40 size, which often are labeled "large". Omit the shrimp to make a delicious vegetarian version. Note: Wisconsin feta is much less salty than Greek feta. If you use Greek feta, be sure to taste your sauce before adding salt. Serves 6-8.


13.25 oz rotini (I use Dreamfields low-carb)
1 lb frozen large shrimp, 31-40 size
2/3 lb feta, crumbled, divided
3/4 cup panko
Zest of 2 large lemons, divided
4 Tbsp chopped flat-leaf parsley, divided
4 Tbsp butter
1/2 cup all-purpose unbleached flour
4 cups milk (whole or 2%)
1/2 lb gruyere or fontiago or Danish fontina, grated (or chopped in a food processor)
2 Tbsp chopped fresh dill weed
1/2 to 1 tsp kosher salt
1/2 to 1 tsp fresh black pepper


Bring a large stockpot of water to the boil, and add the pasta. Cook for 8 minutes; the pasta should be a bit underdone. Drain, rinse under cold water, and drain again. Add the pasta to a large mixing bowl and set aside.

Preheat oven to 400°F.

Remove shrimp from the freezer, and set in a bowl of cold water.

In a small bowl, combine 1/3 cup of the feta, half of the lemon zest, all of the panko and 2 Tbsp parsley. Mix well and set aside.

Peel and devein the shrimp as soon as they are defrosted enough to handle (but not fully defrosted) and add to the pasta.

Make the sauce: In a small sauce pan over medium heat, melt the butter. Add in the flour and stir until the flour is absorbed by the butter to form a paste. Cook, stirring, for 1 minute. Add the milk, and, with a wire whisk, stir vigorously to remove any lumps. Continue to cook over medium heat, stirring frequently with the whisk, for 5 minutes or until the sauce thickens enough to coat the back of a wooden spoon.

Shrimp lemon mac and cheese

Remove pot from heat, and whisk into the sauce the gruyere and the remaining feta. Whisk until the sauce is smooth; the gruyere will melt completely, and the feta will be well incorporated. Add the remaining lemon zest, the remaining parsley, dill weed, and salt and pepper to taste. Pour the sauce on top of the pasta, and stir to combine.

Shrimp mac and cheese

Pour the mixture into a casserole dish (approximately 9x13 inches). Sprinkle the panko mixture on top. Place in the middle of the oven and bake at 400°F for 25 minutes, until the top is browned and the cheese is bubbling a bit along the edges. Remove from the oven, let sit for 5 minutes, and serve hot.

More recipes in The Perfect Pantry:
Pasta with clams and vegetable sauce
Slow roasted tomato macaroni and cheese
Four-cheese lasagne
Avgolemono (chicken soup with rice and lemon)
Lemon waffles

Shrimp, lemon, herbs and feta macaroni and cheese: a taste of the Greek Isles.

Disclosure: The Perfect Pantry earns a few pennies on purchases made through the Amazon.com links in this post. Thank you for supporting this site when you start your shopping here.


I'm a short person in a family of tall people, so I can relate to how you feel about being tall *and* how you feel about never giving up lemons!

This sounds like a brilliant adaptation of mac-n-cheese, which is one of my all-time favorite comfort foods. I love the photo showing how the sauce should coat the spoon too, great photo.

Mmm, lemons! I said the exact same thing in my blog -- I could never be a full-locavore because I couldn't give up lemons.

This recipe looks great -- glad to see what you came up with.

And hope your big Drop-In and Decorate event yesterday was a huge success. I was sorry to have missed it.

I think lemon is widely used in the cuisine of the former Ottoman Empire, which would include much of the Middle East and Turkey as well as Greece. It's prominent in Lebanese cooking, of which my nephew at age three said "that's why they call it lemonese."

Yep, I am more careful than ever to eat what grows in New England, but WILL NOT give up ginger, chocolate, salt, pepper, lemons and limes, coffee, or even bananas. Count me in your club!

I am going to try this one. I love the flavors. I must try it with scallops. Well because I have no shrimp and won't be going to Whole foods for a while.
I am tall, 5'11". It's not all that... lol

Well, there is salt from the Maine coast... but here's where the 'everything in moderation' rule applies.

I could never give up lemons either, I think a squeeze of lemon juice adds such a fresh note to so many dishes. It is so nice to be able to enjoy food from elsewhere while still using whatever local foods are available at the time.

And no, alas, I will never be tall either, or even of average height :) But, as Alanis Morisette crooned, "I'm short but I'm healthy, yeah"!

What a delicious looking take on mac n cheese! I commiserate on being short. I'm the shortest one in my family at 5'2" if I stretch really tall.

I will never be a full-fledged locavore either Lydia living in Canada but as long as we attempt it we are doing our part.

Once again I learn something...I, too, love lemons and always have them on hand. But truth be told, sometimes if I don't use them fast enough, they mold. I will now throw a few in the refrigerator to slow the aging process.

A little photo tutorial! Nice! I love lemon, and I LOVE mac and cheese. What on earth could be better??

I am delighted to learn about the different types of lemons. I have often chosen them, by instinct, depending on what I was going to do with them. For zest, the ones with the rougher skin, juice, the smooth skin, and wedges, the one with the little neck because I think they are cuter. Who knew?

Your pasta looks and sounds scrumptious!

oh, count me in as "vertically-challenged". a tall friend -- 5' 9" in her stocking feet -- once described visiting the Phillipines.
Every building's ventilation system had ducts at 7' on street level. Her whole family had to wash about a dozen times a day to get the particulate matter out of their hair and off their faces.
So maybe it's not a person's height, but one's height relative to everyone else.
PS. Dwarf citrus in tubs. Yummmm

This looks like the most delicious mac and cheese ever. Can't wait to try it!

I know some european kids (who had lived in China) blab about their ability in speaking Chinese, but in front of me suddenly they "can't" :) Tall-short, this-that are so comparatively speaking. But for sure this dish you made is absolutely divine, nothing can compare!

Kalyn, I figure that the shorter we are, the closer we are to the mac and cheese! This is truly a dish that's fancy enough for company; I know someone who served it as the main course on New Year's Eve.

Julia, I had a lot of fun embracing the challenge of using feta in mac and cheese. I knew I needed a melting cheese to "carry" it, but right away I thought of the wonderful Greek flavors.

Mae, you've made me giggle, and as always have taught me something to add to my appreciation of lemons.

Candy, same here. All of those are must-haves for me.

Dawn, the scallops should work, but you'll have the same challenge, not to overcook them. One of the reasons I call for frozen shrimp (other than the fact that here in New England all of our shrimp are frozen) is that adding them in a semi-frozen state guarantees they won't be overcooked in the finished dish.

Susan, yes indeed!

Nupur, I have to admit that there are times when I do enjoy being short, too. And lemons are a must for me, especially in the winter, when food seems to need more brightening up.

Christine, we short folks are in good company, at least in these comments!

Val, I think that's the lesson. We eat locally when we can, and happily share the bounty of other parts of the world when there is something as precious as a lemon.

Joan, sometimes the lemons I have on my counter mold if I don't use them as quickly as I'd intended. I also find that if I store them in a colander or a berry bowl (one with holes on the sides), they stay fresher longer.

TW, if you are a lemon and mac and cheese person, you have to try this dish. I made many versions to get to this recipe, and my family scarfed down each one. Happily.

Rocquie, you've been doing it right all along. I also choose different ones for different uses. The supermarkets seem to toss all of the lemons together in big bins. Maybe they're just grouping by flavor.

Jenna, I had that feeling when we traveled in Vietnam. The first time we ate at a sidewalk cafe (which was on our very first day) and sat on the child-size plastic stools, I was grateful for being short!

Donna, I think it is. But I'm not objective!

Gattina, my photos don't do it justice. I wish I had your ability to make food just fly off the computer screen. But even though the photos aren't great, the mac and cheese is really delicious.

I love every ingredient in this dish

Now this is mac & cheese I would be happy with...wowzer.

That's a delicsh, zingy dish with all the zest. It's one of fave ingredients. Sometimes I want lemon flavour without the tartness.

I am tall and always wanted to be small and pixie-like. :)
Lemons are something I will never give up.. and I love the mac and cheese!

This looks amazing! Perfect timing too. I made feta yesterday and was looking for a recipe to use it in. Love the photo of the lemon zest.

When I was in high school, I always wanted to be short (one of my best friends was only 4'11" and I wanted to be just like her)!

I'm all for eating locally & sustainably when possible, but I'm not giving up lemons either. Or cocoa. Or mussels and crab. And for the record, that mac & cheese recipe sounds divine. Can't wait to try it!

Daryl, Noble Pig: you'll really love all of these ingredients together. This is my new favorite mac and cheese.

Peter, the lemon in this is not overwhelming, and the feta is delicious.

Natashya, we all want the opposite of what we're given, at least when we're young we do!

Molly, this would be so amazing with your own homemade feta. I hope you'll try it.

Sandie, giving up cocoa in any form would be unthinkable. I think I'd rather give up lemons than chocolate!

What a refreshing change from the tasty but "trendy" lobster mac and cheese!

I looked over your recipe and their recipe and clearly they did not steal yours. I'm sure you know that a list of ingredients can not be copyrighted. The text of their recipe is not the same as yours, thus it is an original work.

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