Citrus has always been the ultimate peel-and-eat convenience food. But because it fits current nutritional guidelines -- lower fat, salt, and cholesterol and high fiber -- citrus has become a star on the food scene.
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The tang of citrus brings a bright contrast to every course -- from salads to salmon to souffle. It's the perfect ingredient to replace flavor lost when you trim fat and sugar from favorite dishes.
No Longer a Lemon
- Mellow Meyer lemons are a favorite in backyard gardens. Now they're beginning to make an overdue appearance next to acid lemons in produce departments. Presumed to be a cross between a lemon and an orange, Meyer lemons give dishes a more subtle, rounded taste.
- Valencia is a small, thin-skinned juice orange with few seeds. It's also good sliced as an ingredient in a refreshing Moroccan salad or in a homey Mediterranean beef stew.
- Navels are thick-skinned and easy to peel. They are best used in sections for cooking. Add them at the end of the cooking time so they keep their shape.
- The Seville, a newcomer to the U.S. marketplace, has long been Europe's winter orange. This jewel-color orange has many aliases--bitter, sour, winter, Bigarade, blood, and Moro. With flesh color ranging from tinges of ruby to deep burgundy, the Seville adds visual appeal to any dish.
- Tangerines are also known by another name. Botanically, these small, slightly flattened citrus with loose skin are mandarins. Today, the names mandarin and tangerine are often used interchangeably. They are also interchangeable for culinary use.
- Mandarins have many varieties such as Satsuma, Fairchild, Kinnow, and Royal, but they taste very similar. Whatever they are called, this group of citrus makes a great addition paired with limes and served over chicken breasts or in relish at holiday time. The juice adds a bit of mystery to sauces and frozen desserts.
- Algerian clementines and tangelos are sun-kissed cousins of the tangerine. Clementines, a cross between the bitter orange and the tangerine, are sometimes available on the East Coast. Tangelos are readily available across the country. The knob at the stem end gives tangelos away. A cross between grapefruits and tangerines, tangelos have a tart-sweet taste. They are stand-ins for any dish calling for tangerines, oranges, or grapefruits.
- Grapefruits come in several varieties, ranging in color from white to red. Many are available year-round. For lively flavor, substitute grapefruit juice for lemon juice.
- Pummelos are the largest citrus fruit. Their flavor is a softer, less acidic version of the grapefruit. A pummelo fills your hand, but by the time you peel off its thick skin, you're left with a fruit about the size of a large orange. The flesh ranges from white to deep pink. Because the flavor is so subtle, pummelos work well in a tangelo and kiwi salad or mixed with shrimp and stuffed into an avocado.
- Puckery kumquats, the smallest citrus fruit, are the opposite of pummelos in size and flavor. Kumquats remain a specialty store item, although home gardeners prize them for pickling or preserving in syrup. Kumquats are easy to grow and mate well with limes to create limequats.
- Limes stand alone. The Persian or Tahitian is the lime commonly found in the produce department. A recent arrival to the marketplace, the Kaffir limes is used in Southeast Asian cooking. Its tangy, aromatic flavor stands out in soups and curries. The Caribbean, Mexican, or Florida key lime is harder to come by. Mostly found in backyard gardens, this sweet, yellowish lime is much loved by piemakers the world over.
Savvy cooks who take advantage of citrus will have no trouble converting dull dinners into memorable meals.
Lime and Tangerine Chicken Breasts You'll love this summery chicken flavored with fresh herbs and citrus.
Caribbean Salad The shrimp, blood oranges, and papaya in this salad are a tropical trio that's hard to resist. If your supermarket doesn't carry blood oranges, any variety will do.
Moroccan Blood Orange Salad Make this fruit and olive salad in minutes, then let it stand to blend flavors while you finish the rest of the meal.
Fresh Lemon Sorbet Keep this refreshing dessert on hand for a cooling treat.
Mediterranean Stew with Olives and Oranges This hearty beef stew boasts the flavors of Greece with added citrus.
Pummelo, Tangelo, and Banana Salad A citrus dressing is just the thing for a citrus-banana salad.
Citrus Vinegar Try this homemade vinegar in a dressing for a fruit-and-greens salad.
Fresh Orange Sorbet The lightests, freshest-tasting dessert ever! Try all the fruit options, too.
Tangelo Ambrosia Toasting the coconut enhances the flavor so you can use less.
Citrus fruits steal the spotlight away from flowers in this easy and fragrant table decoration.
1. Fill the basket with fruit, clustering the kumquats to best bring out the vibrant orange. 2. Randomly halve several of each fruit. Try slicing lemons and limes lengthwise; different shapes are more interesting. 3. Insert salal or citrus leaves throughout. 4. Tuck stephanotis in and around the basket. Note: Wait until the basket is at its final destination to complete this step.
1. Wrap citrus leaves around the candleholder, and secure with a rubber band. 2. Trim the bottom of the leaves flush with bottom of the candleholder. 3. Cut wire-edge ribbon and wrap around the candleholder, twisting it securely into place. 4. Finish off the ribbon ends by cutting an inward V. 5. Snip and remove the rubber band.
To section an orange or grapefruit, remove the peel and white membrane from the whole fruit. Use a sharp paring knife to cut the fruit section away from the membrane on each side.
Did You Know?
Citrus is a great source of vitamin C. What you may not realize is that only 25 percent of the fruit's vitamin C is in the juice. The rest is in the peel and the albedo, the white layer under the skin. Citrus' soluble fiber, also found in the albedo, helps lower blood cholesterol. The peel is high in pectin, which is why it's added to jellies and jams to help them set. The tiny oil sacs in the colored outer peel hold intense fruit flavor. A tablespoon of grated peel gives more zing to a recipe than a cup of juice.