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The Quest for Zest

Citrus ZestWhether grated, minced or thinly sliced, citrus zest — the outermost part of the peel — adds a refreshing “zing” to all sorts of sweets and savories, including appetizers, mains, sides, snacks and desserts.  It’s bursting with aromatic oils that add delicate yet distinct flavor to foods. Here are my favorite ways to “zest” up a recipe:

  • Sprinkle over plain, vanilla or flavored yogurt
  • Stir into softened cream cheese, goat cheese or ricotta cheese. To sweeten, add light honey. Great spread on toast, muffins, waffles, pancakes, English muffins or even quick breads like banana, pumpkin, lemon and date-nut. 
  • Add to fruit salads and fruity pie fillings, or stir it into cookie dough.
  • Stir into custard, frozen yogurt, ice cream or favorite non-dairy frozen dessert.
  • Whip it up with cream for a perfect pie filling or topping, or stir it into cream cheese or butter cream frosting for cakes, cupcakes and brownies. 
  • Stir into sauces for meats.
  • Add flavor to soups and stews with zest.
  • Blend into salad dressings.
  • Stir fry with favorite veggies.
  • Season any veggies, grains or side dishes with sautéed garlic, onions and your choice of zest. 

Experiment with lemon, grapefruit, orange, blood orange, tangerine, lime and even kumquat zest to liven up a menu without overpowering flavor.  A little bit goes a long way, so start small and increase as needed.  Zest is interchangeable, so swap out zest from different fruits according to your own taste and mood. And you might want to try dried zest from the spice aisle too.

Try these super zesty recipes:

Remember, zest is the outermost part of the citrus peel — not to be confused with the pith, the bitter white part just underneath the zest. For best results, use a microplane (a thin grater perfect for the job), a traditional zester or a vegetable peeler. You can also use a sharp knife to remove any pith and cut thin, narrow slices of zest.   

Do you “zest-up” your recipes? Got a favorite? Let me know.

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Rose-Marie says …

I love citrus peel - whether making citrus sugar (right now I have lime sugar), by putting organic lime peel into a jar of sugar - for anything from tea to sprinkling over cookies etc. Also, I like to make compound butters with zest - for instance, grapefruit zest - makes a great counterpoint for a cultured butter. Also for making your own citrus oils (for instance, tangerine is great on Asian food. I love making candied citrus peel - from citron (right now they have great Buddha hands at WH store!!), minneolas, oroblancos, blood orange. I have experimented with putting candied citrus peel in everything from homemade vegetarian sausage to salads, cookies, and most everything listed above, not to mention coating with bittersweet chocolate and eating as a snack - VERY IMP to only use organically grown produce when you want to use the peel. Did you know there are health benefits to citrus peel, and they are now researching for more benefits that may aid in serious diseases.