Thursday, July 20, 2006

Do you have a zest for fruit?

Nothing says summer to me quite like the fruity tang of citrus! How do we incorporate this lively flavor into our dishes? There are two methods: either juice the fruit or use its zest.

According to the The Food Lover's Companion, zest is "
the perfumy outermost skin layer of citrus fruit (usually oranges or lemons)...". It is used to season many types of dishes from savory to sweet. When zesting a fruit, it is important to only remove the vibrantly colored outer layer. Just below this layer is the white, soft layer called pith. Pith has a bitter taste so be careful to not remove it with the zest.

How do we remove the zest without removing the pith, you ask? Luckily several tools do the job quite well. I have included photos of the three most common kitchen gadgets used for completing this task.

With all three of these tools the key is not going too deep.
The lemon zester: This tool has tiny holes at the end of it to cut thread-like strips of zest. If a smaller sized zest is required, simply chop to desired size.
The microplane zester: This gives you a fine, grated zest. By using the smallest holes on a box grater, you can achieve similar results.
The vegetable peeler: Probably the most common kitchen tool of the three, the peeler will give you ribbon-like bands of zest which can be used whole, cut into strips or minced.

Now we have zest, what should we do with it?
  • You can add zest to any recipe that calls for lemon, lime or orange juice to add more flavor to the dish.
  • Sprinkle two types of zest with a mix of freshly chopped herbs on top of your favorite piece of fish. Cover and bake in a 400° F oven. A general rule is 10 minutes for every inch of thickness.
  • Make a crust to add to meat. Mix zest with salt, pepper, garlic and experiment with different herbs, nuts and seeds. Try orange-rosemary, lime-cumin, lemon-pine nut, orange-sesame seed or lemon-basil. Rub the mix over a chicken breast, steak or pork chop and pan sear until brown. Depending on the size of the meat you can finish in the pan or bake in a 350° F oven until done. Use a meat thermometer to make sure the meat is properly cooked.

Bon app├ętit!

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