With their sunny colour and fresh scent, lemon garnishes look and smell appealing. Lemon complements everything from seafood to desserts. Garnishes also impart a distinctive flavour to food and drinks; edible lemon garnishes go equally well with sweet dishes or with savoury meals depending on how the chef prepares them. While the simplest lemon garnishes require little more than a sharp knife and a steady hand, others involve some cooking.
Slice each lemon in half crosswise through the thickest part of its middle. Allow one lemon half per plate.
Cut the cheesecloth or food-safe mesh into squares or circles large enough to accommodate a single lemon half. Each fabric piece should be large enough to pull the excess fabric up over the lemon half and leave a tuft of gathered cloth at the top, probably 5 to 7 inches on a side.
Place each lemon half cut side down on its own square of cheesecloth or mesh. Pull the fabric taut around the lemon half and gather excess cloth at the pointed tip of the lemon.
Tie the top of the fabric pouch with the lemon half inside with ribbon or twine to form a fully wrapped package. Each guest can squeeze lemon onto the seafood without drizzling pulp or seeds onto the dish. Repeat the process for each lemon half.
Slice a lemon crosswise through the thickest part of its middle. The resulting "wagon wheel" slices will be as large as the lemon's diameter; for smaller wheels, slice the lemon toward one of its pointed tips.
Make another cut 1/8 to 1/4 inch away from the first cut. The resulting slice should resemble a wheel. Thinner slices reveal more of the lemon's translucent flesh, while wider ones showcase the yellow peel.
Cut a slit from the centre of the lemon slice to its peel to form a slot for placing the lemon wheel on the edge of a drink. Leave the slices intact for floating in water or for decorating whole baked fish.
Give the split wheel a half-twist to form a decorative curl on a relatively flat surface. Turning the split sides of the wheel in opposite directions forms a bow-tie shape that looks attractive on savoury and sweet dishes.
Leave the lemon intact and remove the yellow skin from it in strips with the zester. Avoid scraping the white pith away with the strips of lemon zest. The zest of the fruit contains the heavily aromatic and flavourful lemon oils, but the pith contains little flavour but bitterness.
Dip the lemon zest strips into cold water for 5 to 10 minutes to make them curl. For short zest strips, skip this step; small strips cannot curl.
Arrange long curls of lemon zest atop a dish. Use a light dusting of shorter pieces of zest where desired. Use a light hand with this strongly scented part of the fruit to ensure that the other flavours and aromas in the dish remain in balance with the powerful lemon.
Peel the lemon with a sharp paring knife, taking care to leave the white pith on the fruit. Scrape any remaining pith from the peel until only the yellow portion remains.
Slice the lemon peel into thin strips. Thinner strips have more surface area in proportion to their tart interiors, making the finished product sweeter.
Mix equal parts of water and sugar in a saucepan and bring the mixture to a boil on the stove. Add the lemon peel strips to the sugar syrup.
Boil the pieces of lemon peel in the syrup until they turn translucent, then remove them from the liquid with a wire strainer or sieve. After more of the sugar syrup drains from the peels, scatter the pieces in a dish of granulated sugar.
Mix the candied lemon pieces in the granulated sugar until no more sugar granules adhere to the strips. Remove the peels from the sugar and allow them to dry completely on a flat surface. Garnish desserts with the candied pieces as desired.
Float lemon slices in plain water to make it more refreshing. Rub lemon zest along the rim of a glass to make any beverage with a twist more fragrant. Use the leftover lemon-scented sugar from making candied lemon peel as a sweetener in teas and desserts.
Lemon zest has a powerful fragrance; use it judiciously or it will overpower more delicate flavours. Use a sharp knife for cutting lemons, as dull knives can slip and cut flesh instead of fruit.