March 22, 2013
March 26, 2013

Now that it is spring and the only respite from the endlessness of winter is a basket of sunny oranges and lemons on the kitchen counter. Citrus fruits are at their peak, just when northerners need them most — not only for a daily dose of vitamin C, but for the sheer sensory pleasure.

Too bad so many of us limit our exposure to a single glass of juice in the morning. Beyond oranges, grapefruits and tangerines, there’s a whole world of lesser-known and quite versatile citrus fruits — from pomelos and blood oranges to kumquats and Meyer lemons. Eat them as is, or add them to cooking to heighten flavour and add a tangy end note.

Even lemons and limes, well-known as they are, could stand a little more time in the spotlight. Besides grating the zest or squeezing their juice, ever thought of chopping a whole peeled lemon into a rice pilaf or a cucumber salad?

The taste of citrus brightens up almost every food.  There’s the extraordinary fragrance and its palate-cleansing quality. Citrus wakes up your taste buds. And it brings out the other flavours that you are using, too. 

Try garnishing rice dishes with wedges of lemon for squeezing on at serving time. Use a microplane to finely grate lemon and orange zest onto fresh ricotta or mozzarella cheese. Segment Ruby Red grapefruit and toss it into a salad of radicchio, Belgian endives, dates and toasted walnuts. She eats kumquats whole, just like that. Slice kumquats up thin and toss them into salads for a sweet-and-sour effect.  It has been mild in San Francisco lately, and kumquats and lemons have been plentiful. 

Blood Oranges.  Sanguines, as they are known in Italian and French, are show-offs.  Cut one up and be prepared to be shocked:  blood-red, pink or speckled orange pulp with a sweet-tart raspberry-like taste.  They grow in Italy, Spain and California. 

Kumquats.  These little orange jewels are as small as robins’ eggs.  They grow in California and Florida.  Pop them in your mouth and eat them whole.  But be warned:  They pack a tart punch.  Slice and add to salads or toss a few into the pot while chicken is roasting. 

Pomelo.  Almost as big as a soccer ball, the pomelo – ancient cousin of the grapefruit – is king of the citrus world.  Light green to pale yellow on the outside and white, yellow or pink inside, once you’ve peeled away a thick layer of pith.  Mild and sweet, pomelos are popular in Thai and Mexican cooking. 

Meyer Lemons.  The sweet and fragrant starlets of the lemon family.  They are a cross between lemons and mandarin oranges, with orange-yellow and very fine peel.  Great for making freshly squeezed lemonade, marmalade or cocktails.

Source: 3.18.2013

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