Cooking with Citrus

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March 11, 2010 by Flora Dawn

Oranges, lemons, limes, and grapefruits are probably the most common supermarket citrus, but there are many different varieties within these categories. Have you ever tried a blood orange? A pummelo?

The citrus growing season is fall to spring, so now is the perfect time to get some fresh, flavorful citrus, maybe even try a new variety. It is high in vitamin C and low in fat and calories, making it a smart way to add flavor, without fat, to your food.

The most obvious use of citrus in cooking might be the fruit itself to liven up a salad or make fruit salsa in winter. But I find myself using the juice more often.

Sure, you can buy the juice in those green bottles on the store shelf, but don’t. Buy fresh fruit and juice it yourself. It only takes a minute and the flavor is so much fresher and intense.

To extract the most juice, the fruit should be at room temperature (you can microwave it for about 30 seconds) and then roll it around on the counter with the palm of your hand before cutting in half; and I mean really roll the heck out of it. This would be a good job for a kid. I have a fancy juicer, but I lived years without it; you can just squeeze the fruit over a fine sieve to catch the seeds, I did this for years and is worked well.

The zest of the fruit packs a lot of flavor due to the oils. It is important to only get the colorful part of the peel, the white part called the pith is very bitter. I use a special tool called a citrus zester, and it is designed for this purpose, but you can also use a grater of vegetable peeler.

I like to add zest to marinades and main dishes, but you’ll find a lot of pudding, quick breads and desserts also call for zest. It does add a very pronounced citrus flavor, but you will also have little pieces of zest in the food. Personally, I never add zest to things like cheesecake or pudding for this reason.

And one of the best parts, fresh-squeezed juice and zest can be stored in the freezer and used later.

Here are some fruit juice estimations; they seem pretty accurate based on my kitchen experience:

*Medium oranges are ideal for wedging and juicing. Three or four medium oranges will yield 8 ounces of juice. Two medium oranges will yield one cup of bite-size pieces.

*One medium grapefruit will yield 8 ounces of juice and three cups of bite-size pieces.

*It takes 5-6 medium lemons to get 8 ounces of juice; limes are about the same, with smaller limes producing a much smaller yield.

Here are a few of my recipes that use fresh citrus, Lemon Pie Filling, Caesar Salad Dressing, and Cuban Pork Roast.

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