Has your daily menu taken on the winter blues? Kick it up a notch, along with your spirits, by adding sweet, aromatic, citrus fruits to your dishes. This delicious splash of sunshine can add a zesty twist and turn a humdrum meal into a tasty, fresh, exciting meal.
Florida’s citrus varieties range from grapefruit, oranges, tangerines, tangelos and mandarins (and up to 30 different hybrids of each orange) to lemons, limes and kumquats. Oranges are considered the largest citrus crop grown in the world. Florida ranks No. 1 in the United States for growing oranges and No. 2 in the world after Brazil. Distinctive and refreshing, Florida citrus tastes great on its own or as a key ingredient in a delicious recipe.
Cooking with citrus provides more than just great taste -- it is a “good for you” food. Florida citrus fruit and 100 percent citrus juices can help fuel your body with the many nutrients it needs for good health. Citrus is an excellent source of vitamin C as well as being fat free, sodium free, cholesterol free and free from added sugars. A well-balanced diet full of fresh citrus fruit is also a great start to keeping a healthy heart.
Zest is the colorful outer peel of citrus fruit. It contains fragrant, intensely flavorful oils, which can add a fruity kick to many dishes. This outer peel can be easily removed (called zesting) from your favorite citrus fruit with a citrus zester, microplane grater or vegetable peeler. When you zest, be careful not to remove too much of the bitter pith, the white layer between the peel and the fruit. Add chopped citrus zest to salad dressings, marinades, and sauces for meat, vegetables or desserts, cake or muffin batter, and bread, scone, biscuit or cookie dough. Citrus peels are also a great flavor alternative to salt.
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When choosing citrus to zest, pick out fruit that is unblemished on the outside. It should be heavy for its size, and the skin should look taut and plump, not shriveled.
To “supreme” a citrus fruit means to cut away its peel and pith, then remove its segments from between the membranes. It is a nice technique to use when you want the whole segment to add a dish or sauce; while you lose a bit of the fruit, you do not get any white pith or fibrous membrane attached to the fruit segment, as you would by simply peeling and sectioning it.
Here is how to “supreme”: Using a sharp knife, slice the rind off the top and bottom of your fruit, exposing the flesh. Stand the fruit on one end (it will now sit flat, for easy paring) and cut the peel and white pith away, going from top to bottom and following the curve of the fruit. Trim away any pith still attached. Hold the fruit in your non-dominant hand, and use a paring knife to cut down one side of a segment, separating it from the membrane. When you get to the bottom of the segment, twist the knife up and around the other side of the segment, flipping it out. When you have taken all the segments out, then squeeze the juice out of the membranes. If you do not use the juice in what you are preparing, you can drink it or save it to use in something else.
When looking for citrus fruit for juicing, avoid ones with bruises, wrinkled, or discolored skin. Choose fruit that have smooth skins and are heavy for their size. Room temperature lemons, limes and oranges will yield more juice than those that are refrigerated. Microwaving the fruit for 15 to 20 seconds before squeezing will help extract more juice. Just do not overdo it; you do not want to boil the juice. One medium orange equals 1/2 cup juice and 2 tablespoons orange zest. One lemon equals 3 tablespoons juice and 1 tablespoon lemon zest (depending on the size). One lime equals 2 tablespoons juice and 1 teaspoon lime zest. Citrus juices are terrific in marinades and help tenderize meat.
Make a delicious citrus dressing using 4 tablespoons avocado oil, 4 tablespoons fresh orange juice or tangelo juice, 1 tablespoon honey, a pinch of salt and freshly ground black pepper.
“Supreme” orange or grapefruit segments and toss them into salads. After adding them, toss the salad to distribute the tangy juice over the lettuce leaves and other vegetables. It is a great substitute for a thick creamy salad dressing, is healthier, and compares to a balsamic vinegar or citrus vinaigrette.
Make a fruit salad by adding oranges to cut up pineapple, apples, bananas and assorted berries. Top with a dollop of whipped cream, some fresh basil leaves and a pinch of salt and pepper.
Mix orange segments with vegetables, herbs and oils, such as diced olives, scallions, cilantro, basil, olive oil or small shreds of mozzarella cheese to make a salsa to top fish or as an accompaniment to seafood dishes.
Heat some olive oil in a saucepan until it starts to steam. Add a big chunk of orange peel, colored side down. Let it simmer with the oil for about four to six minutes. After it cools, drizzle it over salads, vegetables or poultry dishes.
Place the segments of a couple blood oranges, which have a unique sweet strawberry-type flavor, into a deep baking dish. Top with some butter, nutmeg, sugar, vanilla extract or cinnamon and bake at 300 degrees for about 8 to 10 minutes. Serve as a dessert or delicious sweet snack.
Add a little sunshine to your cooking all year long by including a variety of sweet, refreshing citrus fruits.
My daughter Ashley, who lives outside of Buffalo, N.Y., made the following cake for dessert and said it was delicious, light and gave a sense of “Spring” to her family’s meal.
Simply Citrus Crèam Cake
1 package (2-layer size) yellow cake mix
1 package (3.4 oz.) Jell-o Lemon Flavor Instant Pudding
1-1/3 cups sour cream, divided
3/4 cup water
1/4 cup oil
2 tablespoons orange zest
1/4 cup powdered sugar
1 tub (8 oz.) Cool Whip Whipped Topping, thawed
1 can (11 oz.) mandarin oranges, drained
Heat oven to 350 degrees. Beat cake mix, dry pudding mix, 1 cup sour cream, water, oil, eggs and orange zest in large bowl with mixer on low speed 1 min.; scrape bowl. Beat on medium speed 2 min. Pour into 2 greased and floured 9-inch round pans. Bake 25 to 30 min. or until toothpick inserted in centers comes out clean. Cool cakes in pans 10 min. Invert onto wire racks; gently remove pans. Cool cakes completely.
Beat remaining sour cream and powdered sugar in large bowl with whisk until well blended. Stir in the Cool Whip. Stack the cake layers on plate, filling layers with half each of the Cool Whip mixture and oranges.
Frost top with remaining Cool Whip mixture. Garnish with remaining oranges. Keep refrigerated.
Kraft Food & Family
Citrus Chicken Salad
2 or 3 grapefruit
1/2 cup lemon curd
1 teaspoon black sesame seeds (optional)
1/2 teaspoon minced garlic
3 boneless, skinless, chicken breasts (1-3/4 pound)
1/4 teaspoon Kosher salt
1/8 teaspoon pepper
1 tablespoon canola oil
2 tablespoons water
1/2 of a (4.5 ounce) bag spring mix salad blend
“Supreme” your grapefruit and remove the segments or cut the grapefruit in half and remove the grapefruits sections with a grapefruit knife. Squeeze the grapefruit membranes for juice (about 1-1/3 cups).
Whisk lemon curd into grapefruit juice until smooth; whisk in sesame seeds and garlic.
Preheat a large sauté pan on medium-high for 2-3 minutes. Season the chicken with salt and pepper. Place oil in the pan then add the chicken; cook 3-4 minutes on each side or until browned. Reduce heat on chicken to medium. Add 2 tablespoons water; cover and cook 4-5 minutes or until 165 degrees. Arrange spring mix on serving platter. Slice chicken; arrange grapefruit and chicken over the spring mix. Drizzle with about1/3 to 1/2 cup dressing and serve.
Publix Apron’s Simple Meal
Citrus-Marinated Skirt Steak
1/2 cup orange juice
1/4 cup fresh lime juice
3 cloves garlic, chopped
1/4 cup finely chopped fresh cilantro
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cumin
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper
1-1/4 pounds skirt steak
Combine orange juice, lime juice, garlic, cilantro, salt, cumin, oregano and crushed red pepper in a large ziplock bag. Add steak, seal bag and turn to coat with marinade. Let stand at room temperature for 15 minutes. Serves 4
Remove the steak from the bag, discarding excess marinade then proceed with one of the following cooking methods. (Note: This cut of meat toughens if it’s cooked to more than medium.)
Grill: Preheat a gas grill to high. Oil grate. Grill steak to desired doneness, about 2-3 minutes per side for medium-rare.
Broil: Broil the steaks about 5 inches below the heat source/flame for 3 to 4 minutes a side.
Pan Sear Then Roast: Use a large fry pan or sauté pan, preferably not non-stick, so that you can put the pan into a very hot oven. A regular pan will also produce better browning, leaving behind flavors in the pan that can be the basis of a simple sauce. Heat the pan to very hot. Add a couple of teaspoons of canola or olive oil or melt a tablespoon of butter. Sauté the steak for 1 to 2 minutes a side, enough to get a good brown surface. Then put into a 400 degree oven for 5 to 7 minutes.
All Pan Sear: In a hot fry pan (again, preferably not non-stick), add a couple of teaspoons of canola, olive oil or 1 tablespoon butter. Cook the steak entirely on top of the stove; 3 minutes a side for rare and 4 minutes a side for medium rare. Baste with the hot oil/melted butter a couple of times on each side.
Which ever cooking method you use, remember to let the steaks rest (don’t tent it or it will over-cook) for about 5-10 minutes before slicing.
Scallops with Citrus Glaze
12 sea scallops (about 1-1/2 pounds)
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
4 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 cup orange juice
1/4 cup lemon juice
1 tablspoon reduced-sodium soy sauce
1/2 teaspoon grated orange peel
Sprinkle scallops with pepper and salt. In a large skillet, sauté scallops in 1 tablespoon oil until firm and opaque. Remove and keep warm. In the same skillet, cook garlic in remaining oil for 1 minutes. Add the juices, soy sauce and orange peel. Bring to a boil; cook and stir for 5 minutes or until thickened. Serve with scallops. Makes 4 servings.
Taste of Home/Healthy Cooking