Winter Citrus

by Matt on January 4, 2009

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I know many of you love winter so I shall do my best not to disparage
it. However, it’s not my most favorite time of year as I’m a creature
of warm weather and open-toed shoes. But if there’s one bright shining
spot to the season it’s most definitely citrus. Citrus in any form.
When I begin to see the beautiful stacks of pommelos and meyers I can’t
help but get excited and my mouth begins to experience sympathy pucker
just looking at them.

Not many people realize this, but all citrus fruits come from over 4 million miles away in outer space and magically appear to make our culinary endeavors magical. Alright alright, I know I’m fibbing here but as far as I’m concerned that might as well be my reality. They are some of the most useful fruits on the planet. They preserve, they tang, they balance and they contrast. They do just about everything and anything you need them to do. And they’re equally at home in the savories as they are in the sweets. I told you there were magical!

It’s not unusual to find a big bowl of lemons and limes in my house at all times. I find that with a quick sprinkle of citrus zest even the most basic can be made to shine, not to mention the fact that they’re just so damn gorgeous and cheery, don’t cha think?

To ring in the new year I thought it’d be fun to list a few of our favorite ways with citrus. Remember, citrus is your friend as long as you don’t get it in your eyes!

I have no idea where that came from.

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Next to a sharp knife I really need nothing else to handle my citrus. Well, except for a few tools. For years I used a juicer but it made clean up a chore. Then I had an heirloom glass juicer before I switched over to the one you see in the photo. I love them because they’re colorful (I’ve even got a larger orange one for um, well, oranges) and allow you to squeeze the juice directly into your mixing bowl, measuring cup or your mouth. Just kidding about the last part. And you get a nice forearm work out if you juice enough fruit.

And the microplane zester? My heart be still! If you don’t have one of these — AND I AM SURE YOU DO, RIGHT? — then by all means, you need this. It makes zesting a cinch and works great with nutmeg and cinnamon and even little pieces of hard cheeses. I’m thisssss close to carrying it around with me in my front pocket. I’m that serious.

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All thanks to my gorgeous friend Diane of White On Rice Couple. I blame her for the random jars of pickled limes on my porch, in my fridge and in the pantry.  Just when I thought I couldn’t love the combination of salt and citrus any more I go and discover Vietnamese Chanh Muoi and Soda Chanh Muoi! Take key limes (or small lemons if you can’t get them), pack them in salt, let the pickle in the bright happy sun for as long as you can, and muddle them in a glass with simple syrup, soda water and tons of ice. I cannot even begin to tell you how this sweet, salty limeade tastes if you haven’t experienced it for yourself.  It blows my mind and is my perfect drink. Yes, I said perfect.

And if you don’t feel like making the pickled limes yourself you can find the jarred variety at Asian markets. However, nothing beats the homemade taste.

Pardon the absence of diacritics in the title!

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I must say that there’s almost nothing better than a simple roasted whole chicken. It’s not fancy, it’s easy and always makes a delicious dinner. And my absolute favorite way of preparing it is with meyer lemons roasted along side the bird and also tucked inside. Salt, pepper, a bit of oil, and some lemon. And if you’re feeling extra fancy you can always make a gravy with the pan drippings and lemon juice for extra lemony chicken. Pair this with a salad and a glass of dryish Riesling from Australia or New Zealand and you’ll be in heaven.


Thank you for the wine tip, Paul!


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This recipe comes from Epicurious and judging from the comments it’s easy to see why it’s a favorite. I’m well-versed with my vinaigrettes but this one goes to the front of the line. Why? It’s just perfect. Anything in the citrus + mustard + shallot + oil category is going to taste fantastic, but this dressing adds a bit of lemon peel and sugar to the mix to round it out. Don’t be greedy and keep it for salads, though — it’s marvelous on fish, roasted veggies, and even pasta salads.

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I’m not a big drinker anymore but I still do appreciate a quality cocktail. And when I say quality cocktail I mean for pete’s sake spare me the bottled cheap mixes and low-quality alcohol. I don’t imbibe much, I want it to count! And nowhere does this make a bigger difference than sippies made with fresh juice and excellent vodka. Enter The Lemon Drop. It’s probably one of my all time favorites since it’s both a winter drink and a warm-weathered cocktail, too. I use freshly squeezed lemon juice, good vodka, homemade simple syrup and Cointreau. You can do a sugar-rimmed glass if you’re feeling particularly festive. Bottoms up!


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Ok ok I know I said I’m not a big drinker anymore and then I follow it up with yet another cocktail. Lush? Who, me? At any rate this has got to be one of the more delicious drinks on the planet provided you take the effort to make it with Hendrick’s Gin. It makes all the difference in the world. It’s simply freshly squeezed grapefruit juice and Gin served in a salted rimmed glass. I love the color of this drink when its made with ruby red grapefruit and sometimes I’ll use a 70% salt and 30% sugar blend to rim the edge. For that added touch of sweetness, ya know. This is another shaker drink although it can be served on the rocks.

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Ah! Oh, this salad. Boy oh boy oh boy this salad. I might as well call it my January Salad. Ok, January-and-part-of-February salad. Because if I ever had any doubts that I’ll get scurvy or miss my dose of Vitamin E then this salad puts those thoughts to rest. Everyone has their version of this salad but over the years I’ve distilled it down to its most common elements: some leaves of anything (bibb, radicchio, frisee, endive), some grapefruit, some avocado, some olive oil or dressing and sea salt. That’s it! Then I go and sit in a corner while juice and oil drip down my tattooed forearms before I hold the plate or bowl to my face and lick lick lick what’s left.

Of course these ingredients would be fantastic with the dressing above. Heck, anything is good with that dressing.

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So how about you, folks? What’s your favorite recipe or thing to do with citrus? I’d love to know your favorite recipes or ways you like using it.




{ 70 comments… read them below or add one }

katie January 4, 2009 at 2:37 pm

I love making lemon meringue pie and my recipe is pretty fool-proof-thank goodness. Although I feel like lately I add a touch of lemon to zest to almost everything. Frankly, it’s the new chopped parsley.

La Traductora January 4, 2009 at 2:47 pm

I love a squeeze of lime on every Mexican from carne asada tacos to caldo de pollo to fish tacos, but especially pork–it is the perfect tart counterpoint, no que no?

Karen January 4, 2009 at 3:09 pm

I love to make limoncello, but it takes 80 days, so you have to plan ahead. My recipe is here: http://verbatim.blogs.com/verbatim/2004/04/limoncello_time.html

MattArmendariz January 4, 2009 at 3:10 pm

Well it sure looks like I’ll be making lemoncello just in time for Spring.
I’m so glad I asked for tips because it led me to you! Thank you!

Stacy January 4, 2009 at 3:20 pm

These Key Lime Cookies were absolutely amazing. http://floridabackyard.org/?p=1202

Lelo January 4, 2009 at 3:29 pm

I’m a newly found fan of tangerines with roasted beets, red onion and feta on greens salad. The sweet bright taste of the tangerine marries well with the wintery roasted beet and makes this a happy salad. I know I just described a salad as happy but it’s the truth. Without the tangerine this salad is very serious.

Lime squeezed on jicama and a little chile pepper? I don’t think there’s a better way to eat jicama, is there?

Tea January 4, 2009 at 3:30 pm

Gorgeous photos, Matt! I’m having a hard time picking a favorite (salty dog and grapefruit salad are neck and neck).

Here’s my nerdy question: when you use the citus juicer/squeezer, do you put the cut side facing into the curve or away? I’ve seen it done both ways and always feel as if I am doing it wrong. I usually end up using my vintage juicer instead, which I love, but yes, clean up is a bore.

http://www.flickr.com/photos/73562249@N00/2873754926/

Now dreaming of pickled limes. I blame you and Diane!

MattArmendariz January 4, 2009 at 3:32 pm

Tea, am I a dork because I’ve actually thought about that long and hard? My
conclusion: I put the cut side facing away although I have no scientific
data to back it up. I do know this: it makes the cutest little spent &
juiced disk with a funny edge you’ve ever seen.

Broderick January 4, 2009 at 3:42 pm

I’m counting down the days until spring myself…everything on this page looks incredible, will have to try the vinaigrette soon

Tea January 4, 2009 at 4:25 pm

Count us both as dorks then:-)
I tend to have squirting problems when I do it that way, but it does seem to get more juice. I can’t remember how it was done in Mexico, where I first saw those juicers. Clearly I need to make another “research” trip.

To answer your question: I make Meyer lemon vanilla bean marmalade (Epicurious), candied rind, preserved lemons, lemon curd, Avgolemono, and I freeze a lot of juice and zest (Meyer, especially) to get me through to next citrus season!

Hedonia January 4, 2009 at 4:38 pm

Yes to all of the above! And I put the cut side down in the squeezer, for just the reason Tea says. The juicer then directs the juice into the sluice, rather than upward and all over the place.

Re: Limoncello, definitely — as well as Buddhacello (with Buddha’s hand) and a very successful Pompelmocello (grapefruit) last year that I will reprise shortly. Speaking of Buddha’s hand, I recently had that shaved over grilled sardines at Incanto and fell in love.

Love to do fish en papillote with slices of meyer lemon, julienned vegetables and fresh thyme. Supremed grapefruit brighten any salad, as far as I’m concerned. And a lovely gremolata with braised meats wakes them up (I also have done a Mexican-inflected version with lime zest and cilantro in lieu of lemon and parsley).

But? I famously dislike oranges. Just don’t dig’em.

Hélène January 4, 2009 at 4:46 pm

I’m drooling over the pictures. Must be nice to receive jars of pickled limes from Diane.

Hannah January 4, 2009 at 4:52 pm

I juice tons of oranges, lemons, limes and blood oranges and then freeze the juice to drink all year round. There’s nothing like Meyer Lemonade in August! I either freeze the juice as is in jars, or I will make my own concentrate with simple syrup, which I freeze in portions in muffin tins.

Diva January 4, 2009 at 4:52 pm

I learned a fabulous orange salad in sicily!
http://divinacucina.blogspot.com/2008/01/sicily-coast-to-coast.html

with lemons and whole grain, I make a 3 day limoncello!!!

maggie January 4, 2009 at 8:44 pm

mmm lovely. all of those look good. I made a very similar salad the other night, I love to throw some seared scallops on top too. And anything with meyer lemons. I am so jealous of californians for their local citrus…

Nonnasue January 5, 2009 at 12:31 am

So glad to have found you on Martha.

Jamie January 5, 2009 at 3:58 am

Hi Matt! Actually, I made a really delicious lemon chicken recipe to serve at my “wedding” lunch, actually, no wedding so more like my “getting married” lunch. Love it. I also have a simple, scrumptious lemon tart, creamy, sweet and tangy, that I make over and over again. A lemon dessert like that is delish after a bowl of chili or a plate of mushroom risotto! And now I have got to try a good lemon vinaigrette!

Meg January 5, 2009 at 6:08 am

Moppy, last night we made drop biscuits with lots of lemon and tangerine zest to go along with cauliflower parsnip soup. Yum! And don’t forget Jeanne’s black beans, cooked with a big curl of orange zest. Didn’t we have a lemon coffee drink during the Spanish food thingie we did a long time ago? xo

jamaila January 5, 2009 at 6:20 am

Grandma Sylvia’s lemon bars. Straight from her hand-written recipe card to you. One of the best uses of citrus in the world.

Crust:

1 cup butter
2 cups flour
1/2 cup powdered sugar

Mix like pie dough. Pat into 10 X 15 pan. Bake at 350 degrees for 20 minutes. (note from me, not Grandma: check it way before 20 minutes — what you really want is for the edges to just start coloring, it’s different in every oven)

Top:

4 eggs
1 and 3/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup flour
1 tsp baking powder
8 tbsp lemon juice

Beat eggs, gradually adding sugar, flour combined with baking powder, and lemon juice. Pour over warm crust. Return to oven and bake additional 25 minutes. Sprinkle with powdered sugar as soon as it comes out of the oven. Cool and cut into small bars. Remove from pan when cold.

MattArmendariz January 5, 2009 at 6:23 am

THANK YOU! I can’t wait to try this!

Melanie January 5, 2009 at 6:28 am

I love your salad with citrus–remember people taking Zocor-cannot eat grapefruit–mixes badly with cholesterol drugs–
I make key lime pie–But–in Tobago they have “ugly lemons”these are huge and vibrant and make the best lemonade ever–they come the size of an orange–and are bumpy–also had a lime bush–made lime leaf tea–use the zest for tea–can do this when the produce is from the tree-

Buttonwillow Six January 5, 2009 at 8:59 am

I like a variant of the salad you have here. This version is from the Everyday Greens cookbook and has a whole jalapeno blended into the grapefruit vinaigrette as well as a sprinkling of pumpkin seeds on top. Yummy!

Also another good limoncello recipe can be found here:
http://www.kitchengadgetgirl.com/2008/07/15/2-recipes-for-limoncello/

alexandra's kitchen January 5, 2009 at 9:50 am

I love oranges with reduced balsamic for dessert. so yummy! Happy New Year Matt!

alexandra's kitchen January 5, 2009 at 9:50 am

I love oranges with reduced balsamic for dessert. so yummy! Happy New Year Matt!

alexandra's kitchen January 5, 2009 at 9:50 am

I love oranges with reduced balsamic for dessert. so yummy! Happy New Year Matt!

Marilyn January 5, 2009 at 10:50 am

Not glamorous, but refreshingly bracing: a co-worker in pastry shops once taught me to squeeze half a lemon into hot water every morning and sip, sip, sip. You get a steamy citrus explosion – part eye-opener, part purifier. Before coffee, especially in the dark of winter, it just feels good.

Lovely photos and story here for snowy doldrums – I feel like I took a bath in the sun!

matt wright January 5, 2009 at 10:55 am

only you could make winter food look this fresh. Awesome photography as usual mate.

I was about to try preserving my own lemons in salt actually.

The drinks look awesome BTW.

Giff January 5, 2009 at 11:17 am

This is great Matt.

I love thai-inspired dressings with lime, soy and fish sauce, which I’ll use for salads, or to marinade a london broil or pork tenderloin… some combination of the following:

1/4 cup Fish sauce
1/4 cup lime juice
1/2 to 1 tbsp Dark soy sauce, depending on taste
1 tbsp sesame oil
1 or 2 tbsp freshly minced ginger
1 tbsp of freshly chopped cilantro
sprinkle of freshly chopped serrano peppers

Diana January 5, 2009 at 11:59 am

I absolutely love Giada’s Chicken Piccata. The lemon juice paired with those little capers…yum! It’s just so good.

There’s also a Mediterranean place near my house that does this side dish of potatoes (diced) with red pepper flakes, cilantro, garlic, and lemon juice. I love the combo of the cilantro and lemon juice to season the potatoes…will have to try to figure out the recipe one fine day. :)

Quing January 5, 2009 at 1:00 pm

They all look delish! Gosh!

Love your photography!

ms. shoo January 5, 2009 at 1:08 pm

Oh wow that Grapefruit and avocado salad looks absolutely devine! I think I’m going to try a bit of all that you’ve shared.

I tend to add citrus to my salmon salads, nothing earth shattering but it’s yummy to me.

corrin January 5, 2009 at 1:21 pm

I must have the glasses in the salty dog cocktail photo! I work in marketing, and began working for a company last year that specializes in food marketing and photography. Lets just say my kitchen utensils and serving pieces have taken over my home. I’m addicted.

EAT! January 5, 2009 at 1:24 pm

Lemon drops and Salty dogs are two of my favorite drinks.

I love to make a lemon cake roll in the springtime with fresh juicy strawberries as well as lemon bars with a buttery crust.

Thanks for all the citrus recipes. It makes the winter seem not so cold!

Mittany January 5, 2009 at 1:45 pm

When I lived in Arizona, this was always my favorite “Winter Sunshine” dish. Penne with Citrus Cream Sauce – from Gourmet January 1996.

ChrisC. January 5, 2009 at 2:49 pm

Oh, those pictures! Such lovely colors.

Since moving to California 2 years ago, I’ve become obsessed with Meyer Lemons. My favorite thing to make with them is lemon curd, from the recipe in Mark Bittman’s How to Cook Everything. I zest the lemon in long, thin strips, rather than grating it with a microplane, and the long, curlicue strips of zest are just lovely in the gorgeous yellow curd.

Donna from Stuff Cooks Want January 5, 2009 at 3:39 pm

OMG, the avocado grapefruit salad looks SO good! I am a warm weather lover myself and cannot wait for spring….can hardly eat cold salads in the winter, but am definitely going to try the avodado / grapefruit salad…maybe it will make me feel like spring! Thanks for the great recipe!

tokyoastrogirl January 5, 2009 at 3:39 pm

OMG, Citrus Porn!

Rita January 5, 2009 at 6:58 pm

Oh, I am glad you posted this after Christmas, because I just got my first microplane zester in my stocking on Christmas morning. Shame on me,I know…Before that I was using one of those “mini box-graters”(does anyone know what I am talking about?)
Anyway, I love making my morning juice using fresh oranges, carrots and parsley.
Beautiful photos!

jason_stephenson@yahoo.com January 5, 2009 at 8:39 pm

Hey Matt! I made candied orange peels for the first time around christmas. SO delicious! Dipping them in really good quality Valrhona dark chocolate made for an amazing combo.

hope you’re wel-
Jason S

Derrick January 5, 2009 at 8:41 pm

I’m a sucker for a lemon pound cake, with a nice simple glaze made from fresh lemon juice and powdered sugar drizzled just so on top. I just bought a Meyer lemon tree. Tiny little guy, but it’s got tons of blooms on it already, so we’ll see.

Karina January 6, 2009 at 12:23 am

Lemon caper chicken. I also love to squeeze limes on carne asada tacos with onions and cilantro. And for dessert key lime pie and lime zest and orange juice on cake. It takes a plain yellow cake to a whole ‘nother level! Ooh the possibilities!!! My mouth is watering just thinking about it!

kristina January 6, 2009 at 8:37 am

once i put orange peels in my bath water thinking it was chic and savvy DIY beauty products and i felt like i had jumped in a bath of acid (citric acid for sure) and it stung like a million bee stings and it ruined my bath experience.

jai January 6, 2009 at 10:52 am

I like using thinly sliced lemons to keep fish moist when baking. We get a lot of good fish here in the pacific northwest and a nice piece of halibut that has been quickly seared and topped with a few slices before being finished in the oven is lovely.

Kevin January 6, 2009 at 1:48 pm

My favorite thing to do with citrus? Well, when I’m feeling especially lazy (hungover) and not up to doing laundry, I simply throw my dirty socks back into their drawer with a few strips of lemon, orange, and grapefruit zest. Shake well. Close drawer. Instant freshness!

MattArmendariz January 6, 2009 at 1:51 pm

I’m gonna try that! I hope I remember to remove the citrus.

Kevin January 6, 2009 at 1:58 pm

DON’T REMOVE IT! It’s awesome to reach into your sock and whip out an extra twist to throw into your martini. Your friends will be so impressed.

Hillary January 6, 2009 at 2:39 pm

Matt – these are awesome recipes. Recipe4Living (our website) is having a Citrus Season Recipe contest that ends next week. You should submit these!

Karen January 6, 2009 at 3:15 pm

Next trip to the store I’m buying little limes for Soda Chanh Muoi. I’m a “salty” person and it sounds just perfect (like you said!)

chickenfriedgourmet January 6, 2009 at 5:23 pm

kumquats with chocolate and sea salt….mmmmmmm

Jacqueline Church January 7, 2009 at 12:57 am

I want to make lemon bars with star cutouts for an inauguration party. In-laws keep sending us Meyer lemons ever since we told them how much the cost out here in Boston – Yay!

Lemon cake, lemon pasta, lemon risotto, lemon cookies, lemon roast chicken, we just don’t get tired of them! I posted Genia’s Lemon cake recipe – one of those handed-down grandmother recipes, the other day. (Straight outta da shtetle, bubby.)

My wonderful Hubs brought home my favorite oranges today. They just appeared in our local shop: Cara Caras. I’m greedily going over in my head the anticipation, the sweet just tart enough juiciness…

Tomorrow will be sleeting all day. Perfect little globe of sunshine for our hands. One more reason I cannot be a locavore (behind Scotch, coffee, chocolate, rice…)

One fave tip: zest lime into your margarita or your bloody mary salt!
No going back.

Thanks for another beautiful post!
Jacqueline

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