A squeeze of lemon or lime can transform the mundane into the miraculously bright and fresh. A creamy avocado becomes addictive guacamole, a fish fillet flips on the plate and cocktails simply come alive. But there’s so much more to citrus than the fresh juice. Here are some of our favorite ways to get the most out of delicious lemons, limes, grapefruits and oranges. Keep in mind that you should ideally use organic citrus and wash the skins for anything involving the exterior of the fruit.
When you grill rounds of citrus on the grill (about 1/2” thick), the sugars caramelize making for a sweet, charred flavor that’s perfect alongside burgers, steak or rich fish like salmon. Our favorite citrus to grill is Ruby Red Grapefruit. All those natural sugars concentrate into a sweet-smoky-tangy treat.
Dehydrating creates a similar effect as grilling but not as intense and no char. If you don’t have a dehydrator, turn the oven on low (about 200 degrees for 2-1/2 hours). If you’d like to use the slices in cocktails, you can dip the slices in sugar before putting them in the oven. You can even add a kick by sprinkling a little cayenne on them.
Preserved lemons are the secret ingredient of many a chef. It’s a one-two punch of salt and citrus, perfect for accompanying seafood and chicken. Simply blanch whole lemons (about 8) for a minute, quarter the cooled lemons, sprinkle kosher salt on them, pack them tightly in a Mason Jar, squeeze additional lemon juice on top (about 2 lemons worth) and refrigerate for 1 week.
A sweet treat that makes a great snack and wonderful gift is Candied Citrus (orange is our favorite). Use a zester to cut the peel off in 1/4” strips (or peel off the skin and slice into strips with a knife). Blanch the strips in boiling water 3 times (straining and rinsing with water in between). Make a simple syrup - simmer equal parts water and sugar in a saucepan until the sugar dissolves. Put the strips in the simple syrup and let sit for about an hour. Remove strips and let dry on a parchment lined cookie sheet. For extra decadence, dip the strips in a little extra sugar and melted chocolate. If you are giving them as a gift (if you don’t eat them all first), tie them up in a translucent bag and tie at the top. Such a pretty presentation.
There are so many things that you can transform by infusing them with citrus - water, vinegar, vodka (see Limoncello recipe below), olive oil, poaching liquid. Simply wash, slice and steep.
Once you squeeze that juice, don’t throw away the precious rind. We love folding the zest into desserts - pudding, cakes, muffins, ice cream. We enjoy that wonderful element of tangy surprise that counteracts the sweetness of the sugar. Zesting over pasta is another way to add freshness to your dish, whether it’s Pasta with Clams or Carbonara. A little pucker goes a long way.
Supreming (or segmenting) an orange or grapefruit is a technique that removes the pith and skin completely from the citrus, creating beautiful flesh-only wedges you can put in green salads (perfect paired with fennel and arugula), fruit salads or alongside a nice piece of fish, grilled chicken or pork. It’s a technique that takes a little bit of patience but is well worth the effort. Use a knife to cut the top and bottom off the orange as well as all the skin and pith (right down to the flesh). Then hold the orange or grapefruit in your hand and CAREFULLY slice out each segment.
• peels of 8 lemons
• 1 quart vodka
• 1-1/2 cups simple syrup (equal parts sugar and water heated until sugar dissolves)
- Add the peels of 8 lemons to 1 quart of vodka and let stand for 3-5 days (shaking once daily). After day 3 start sampling to get the taste you want. When it tastes right, but before the lemon peels get stiff, remove the peels and strain the liquid through a coffee filter or sieve
- Let the lemon vodka rest for a day or so and then mix 1-½ cups of the infused vodka with 1-½ cups simple syrup (equal parts sugar and water warmed on the stove until sugar dissolves and then cooled)
- Give it time to settle down and serve on the rocks or neat