Citrus tips, tidbits, and recipes from our demo diva, Victoria Hicks.
The citrus family of fruits includes the grapefruit, kumquat, lemon, lime, orange, tangelo, tangerine, and ugli fruit. Native to southeast Asia, citrus fruits prefer tropical climates and thrive in many Central and South American countries, as well as the states of Arizona, California, Florida, and Texas. Sweet, tart, and bitter all at once, citrus fruits are rich in vitamin C.
Citrus is irreplaceable in cooking. Fresh lemons, available all year, are an essential flavoring for hollandaise and mayonnaise. When used in marinades, lemons and limes contribute acidity that acts as a tenderizer. Lime juice “cooks” raw fish for seviche.
Citrus fruit that is firm and heavy in the hand means it is full of juice. Rough, brownish areas on the skin don’t affect flavor or quality, but avoid fruit that is overripe, scarred, moldy, or has soft spots. Choose grapefruit that have thin, fine-textured, brightly colored skin. They should be firm yet springy when held in the palm and pressed.
Citrus can be stored at room temperature for a day or two, but should then be refrigerated, where the fruit can be kept for up to 2 weeks.
On a recent trip to California to visit my cousin, I had the delight to be surrounded by the lush, fragrant Meyer lemon trees in her garden. We ate them as one would eat oranges, they were so sweet. —Victoria Hicks
Kotopolo Riganato kai Lemonato
Roast Chicken with Oregano and Lemon
This savory Greek roast chicken can also be made with rosemary in place of the oregano.
1 roasting chicken, 4-5 lb
Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
1 lemon, quartered
6 cloves garlic, crushed
¼ cup dried oregano
½ cup olive oil
¼ cup lemon juice, or to taste
Preheat oven to 375°F. Pat the chicken dry and sprinkle inside and out with salt and pepper. Place the lemon quarters, three garlic cloves, and a little of the oregano in the cavity. In a small saucepan over medium heat, warm the oil. Add the remaining garlic and the remaining oregano and warm through. Add the lemon juice, and season to taste with salt and pepper. Remove from the heat and set aside. Place the chicken, breast side up, on a rack in a roasting pan. Brush once with some of the oil-lemon mixture, and place in the oven. Roast, basting often with more of the lemon-oil mixture, until golden brown and tender, about 1½ hours. The juices should run clear when the chicken is pierced at the thigh joint. Transfer to a warmed platter, let rest for several minutes, then carve and serve.
Cook’s Note: Potatoes are often roasted along with the chicken. Peel 2 pounds, cut into quarters, and place in the roasting pan along with a dozen garlic cloves. Add 1 cup water or chicken stock. Once the chicken is ready, remove it from the pan, and raise the oven temperature to 450° for several minutes to color the potatoes. Serve them on the side with the pan juices.
—Adapted from The Best Book of Greek Cookery by Chrissa Paradissis
DID YOU KNOW?
Toward the end of the 15th century, scurvy became the major cause of disability and mortality among sailors on long sea voyages. In 1753, Scottish naval surgeon James Lind showed that scurvy could be cured and prevented by ingestion of the juice of oranges and lemons. Soon citrus fruits became so common aboard ship that British sailors were referred to as “limeys.”
Salad with Grapefruit, Avocado, and Hearts of Palm
2 ruby-red or pink grapefruits
1 Tbs. finely minced shallots
1 1/2 tsp. Dijon mustard
¼ tsp. wasabi powder or paste
2 Tbs. white wine vinegar
2 tsp. soy sauce
2 Tbs. chopped fresh basil, plus leaves for garnish
salt and pepper
1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
2 avocadoes, peeled and pitted
4 hearts of palm, cut in ½-inch thick rounds
4 Tbs. chopped macadamia nuts
1 large head Boston lettuce, well washed and dried
Cut ends off grapefruit; remove peel, pith and outer membranes. Holding the grapefruit over a bowl to catch the juice, remove whole sections, one by one, cutting downward on either side of the membrane surrounding them. Squeeze ½ cup juice from membranes into a bowl for dressing.
Place shallots, mustard, wasabi, vinegar, soy sauce, juice, and basil in a bowl; season with salt and pepper. Whisk to combine. Gradually whisk in olive oil and adjust seasoning. Cut avocados into ½ inch thick wedges.
Arrange lettuce leaves on a platter or in a bowl, then alternate grapefruit, avocado, and hearts of palm on top. Dress to taste with the vinaigrette. Garnish with basil and macadamia nuts and serve.
This makes a fast, light, and delicious dessert. Or serve for breakfast, minus the Grand Marnier.
For each serving, allow half a grapefruit. Remove the seeds with the point of a knife or spoon. Cut around the membranes and between the outer peel and the pulp to loosen the sections. Arrange the halves on a baking sheet and sprinkle them lightly with about 2 tsp. brown sugar. Add ½ tsp. Grand Marnier to each one (optional). Dot with 1 tsp. butter cut into small pieces. Preheat the broiler. Broil the grapefruit with the surface 5 inches from the heat until the topping is brown and bubbly, about 5 minutes.
Oranges in Fragrant Syrup
In this Turkish dish, the oranges are covered in syrup perfumed with orange-flower water and cinnamon. Garnish with the orange zest in syrup or top with toasted almonds or chopped fresh mint.
6 large oranges
1½ cups sugar
½ cup water
1 cinnamon stick, about 2 in. long
¼ cup honey
3 Tbs. orange-flower water
Using a vegetable peeler or zester, shave the brightly colored zest (peel) from the oranges. Cut away all traces of the bitter white pith. Cut the orange zest into thin, narrow strips.
Separate the oranges into segments by carefully cutting between the membranes with a sharp knife. Put the segments into a bowl; cover and refrigerate. Bring a saucepan three-fourths full of water to a boil. Ad the orange zest and boil for 3-5 minutes. Drain and refresh in cold water. Drain again and set aside.
In a saucepan combine the sugar, water, cinnamon stick, and honey, and bring to a boil over high heat. Cook briskly until a very thick syrup forms, about 230°F on a candy thermometer. Remove from the heat. Remove and discard the cinnamon stick. Stir in the reserved orange zest and the orange-flower water. Pour the syrup over the orange segments, re-cover, and chill for about 4 hours.
To serve, transfer to individual plates. Spoon the syrup with the zest over the top.
—Adapted from Mediterranean, The Beautiful Cookbook
Granita di Limone
Orange, lime, or grapefruit juice and zest can be used in place of the lemon in this lovely and refreshing Sicilian dessert. Berries make a nice garnish.
1 cup water
1 cup sugar
Pinch of salt
2 cups strained fresh lemon juice
2 Tbs. grated lemon zest
In a small saucepan, combine the water, sugar, and salt. Bring to a simmer over medium heat, stirring until the sugar dissolves. Pour into a shallow metal pan. Cover and place in the freezer until ice crystals begin to form, 2-3 hours, depending on the freezer. Break up the crystals with a fork, re-cover, and freeze again. Repeat this process every 30 minutes until the mixture is slushy, 2-3 hours. Spoon the granita into dessert bowls and enjoy.
Risotto al Pompelmo
The taste of the grapefruit here is at first only barely apparent, but with each mouthful the flavor emerges and becomes more deliciously pronounced. This risotto is the perfect first course before fish or game dishes. Top each serving with diced grapefruit sections.
5 cups chicken or vegetable broth
3 Tbs. unsalted butter
1 Tbs. oil
1 small leek, white part only, washed and finely chopped (about ½ cup)
3 Tbs. finely chopped celery
1½ cups Arborio rice
1 cup grapefruit juice, warmed (the juice of 1 large grapefruit, approximately)
¼ cup grated Parmesan cheese
1 Tbs. chopped fresh parsley
4 grapefruit sections, diced
Bring the broth to a steady simmer in a saucepan on top of the stove.
Heat 2 Tbs. butter and the oil in a heavy 4-quart casserole over moderate heat. Add the leek and celery and sauté for 1 to 2 minutes, until the leek begins to soften, being careful not to brown it.
Add the rice to the leek mixture; using a wooden spoon, stir for 1 minute, making sure all the grains are well coated.
Add the grapefruit juice and stir until it is completely absorbed. Begin to add the simmering broth, ½ cup at a time, stirring frequently. Wait until each addition is almost completely absorbed before adding the next ½ cup, reserving about ¼ cup to add at the end. Stir frequently to prevent sticking.
After approximately 18 minutes, when the rice is tender but still firm, add the reserved broth. Turn off the heat and immediately add the remaining butter, Parmesan, and parsley, and stir vigorously to combine with the rice. Serve immediately. Garnish each serving with some diced grapefruit.
—Adapted from Risotto by Judith Barrett and Norma Wasserman
Sometimes we forget how satisfying good oranges can be when served as a dessert. In Spain and Mexico, oranges are peeled and sliced, then arranged in layers in a serving dish, with each layer receiving a sprinkling of confectioner’s sugar and cinnamon and, sometimes, extra orange juice. Or try the following combination of flavors:
For each serving, peel 1 orange very carefully with a sharp knife, removing all the white pith. Cut into 3/8-inch slices, sugar lightly, sprinkle with orange-flavored liqueur, and chill before serving.
Lemon and Almond Pudding with Blueberry Sauce
This recipe for an old-fashioned lemon pudding results in a two-layer affair of rich custard on the bottom and a spongelike cake on top. It’s often served with Blueberry Sauce.
¼ cup all-purpose flour
1 cup sugar
4 Tbs. unsalted butter, melted
Scant ½ cup fresh lemon juice
1 Tbs. grated lemon zest
½ tsp. almond extract
3 large eggs, separated
1½ cups buttermilk
Preheat the oven to 325°F. Butter a 9x5x3 loaf pan.
In a large bowl, combine the flour and ¾ cup of the sugar. In a medium bowl, whisk together the butter, lemon juice, lemon zest, almond extract, egg yolks, and buttermilk. Stir into the dry ingredients until well blended.
Beat the egg whites with an electric mixer until soft peaks form. Gradually beat in the remaining ¼ cup of sugar. Fold the whites into the pudding mixture and transfer the batter to the prepared pan. Place the loaf pan in a large baking pan and add enough hot water to come halfway up the sides of the loaf pan. Bake for 60 to 70 minutes, or until the top of the pudding is golden and firm to the touch. Remove the loaf pan from the water bath and let cool on a rack for 15 to 20 minutes. Serve warm with the fruit sauce.
Makes about 2 cups
2 cups blueberries, frozen or fresh
½ cup water
¼ cup sugar
1 tsp. fresh lemon juice
2 tsp. cornstarch
In a small saucepan over medium heat, combine 1 cup of the blueberries, ¼ cup of the water, the sugar, and lemon juice. Bring to a boil, stirring frequently, then reduce heat to simmer and cook for 7 to 10 minutes, or until the fruit softens.
Stir the cornstarch into the remaining ¼ cup of water until dissolved. Add the cornstarch mixture to the blueberries mixture. Add the remaining 1 cup of blueberries. Cook on low heat for 3 to 4 minutes, or until thickened.
Serve immediately, or transfer to a small bowl, cover, and refrigerate for up to 24 hours.
—Irish Puddings, Tarts, Crumbles, and Fools by Margaret M Johnson
Lemon Curd Coconut Bars
Makes 32 cookies
These bars can be made up to 5 days ahead. Store airtight in a single layer in the refrigerator.
3½ ounces (1½ cups) grated sweetened coconut
1 cup flour
1 stick (½ cup) cold butter, cut into bits
¼ cup sugar
Preheat oven to 350°F. In a large bowl combine the above ingredients and blend the mixture until it resembles meal and begins to clump together (or process together in food processor). Press the dough into a well-buttered 8-inch-square baking pan and bake in the preheated oven for 15 minutes or until it is golden.
¾ cup sugar
1/3 cup lemon juice
1 Tbs. each of grated lemon rind and flour
Pinch of salt
In a bowl, beat together the above ingredients until the mixture is well combined. Pour the mixture over the baked layer, and bake in the moderate oven for 25 minutes, or until it is golden brown. Sift confectioner’s sugar evenly over the top of the dessert, let the dessert cool, and with a serrated knife cut it into 2- by 1-inch bars.
—Adapted from Gourmet, October 1979