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Citrus Fruit

Winter citrus is a good cure for winter doldrums. 

Here we are in the depths of winter. Sometimes it feels like 10 p.m. but we look at the clock and it only 5:30 p.m. Let’s bring some zest and brightness into the kitchen with the plentiful tangy and colorful citrus that’s abundant this time of year. The fragrance alone of citrus fruits is like aroma therapy for the winter doldrums.

There is more to cooking with citrus than the “zest.” The juices and flesh of citrus fruits are key ingredients in many recipes. In addition to being ingredients, there are a number of ways to repurpose the rinds and peels.

When removing the flesh from an orange, cut the orange in half and use a small paring knife and your fingers to pull the flesh away from the skin. This leaves you two small dessert cups that you can fill with a scoop of ice cream or mixed fruit salad. Chocolate ice cream in an orange cup might remind you of those chocolate covered orange slices you find during the holidays.

Often, I find that my brown sugar becomes hard as a rock between uses. Add just one orange peel overnight and the sugar will nicely soften again. I’ve started adding a peel when I open a bag to keep it from hardening in the first place. Just leave it in the bag.

Peels and skins from all citrus fruits provide an easy way to keep your disposal clean and deodorized. The oils and juices that remain in the skins are just enough to do the job. Simply put the pieces in before turning on the disposal.

Certain types of ceramic mugs tend to hold on to coffee and tea stains. Try rubbing the stain with the pithy inside of any type of citrus peel and most stains easily disappear. If you have a particularly stubborn stain, add a pinch of salt to the peel before you start scrubbing. Quick and easy.

Clean the microwave? Why not! Place a few lemon slices in a small bowl of water. Microwave on high for 30 seconds and then simply wipe away food stains that might be otherwise hard to clean away. Plus, food odors are eliminated.

There is a common misconception that you never mix acid with other acids. Not so. In the winter when tomatoes are rather blah, you can perk them up by adding just a pinch of lemon zest to chopped tomatoes so that you can still enjoy a nice bruschetta. You’ll be amazed.

When I make limoncello each winter, I always end up with a large number of perfectly good lemons without the peels. I simply squeeze the juices from the lemons and pour these juices into ice cube trays. Once frozen, I pop the cubes of juice out into large zip lock bags and keep the bag in the freezer. When a recipe calls for fresh lemon juice I just reach for one of the cubes. A single cube is 1/4 cup of juice. You can do the same with any of the citrus juices. Great idea for having juices available for cocktails.

Regardless of the kind of citrus or recipes, always be sure to eliminate the seeds. Too much bitterness is added to your dish.

Pasta con Arancia e Prosciutto

(Pasta with Oranges and Prosciutto)

Serves 4-5

Sea salt

12 oz. tagliatelle or fettuccine

2 Tbs (1/4 cube) unsalted butter

3 oz. thinly sliced prosciutto. Tear into 1 inch pieces

Zest & juice of 1 large navel orange (or substitute with 2 Blood oranges)

½ cup heavy whipping cream

Freshly ground black pepper

1/4 cup finely grated Pecorino cheese

Bring large pot of water to boil. Season with salt. Add pasta and cook, stirring occasionally, until al dente. Drain. Reserve 1/4 cup pasta water.

In large heavy nonstick pan, melt butter over medium-high heat. Add prosciutto. Sauté quickly until lightly browned, about 3 minutes. Don’t over cook as prosciutto will be dry and chewy.

Add reserved pasta water, orange juice, half of zest, and cream. Bring to a boil. Add pasta and cook, stirring until sauce coats pasta, about a minute. Season with salt and pepper. Stir in cheese and divide among warm bowls. Sprinkle remaining orange zest over pasta.

Fennel and Grapefruit Salad

Serves 4-5

1 medium red grapefruit

1 medium fennel bulb, halved and very thinly sliced (julienne)

1/4 cup very thinly sliced (julienne) red onion

Sea salt

Vinaigrette

3 tablespoons fresh basil leaves (marjoram or rosemary can be substituted)

2 Tbs sherry vinegar

1-1/2 teaspoons honey

1/8 teaspoon salt, plus extra

1/8 teaspoon coarsely ground pepper

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil (I use Grove 45)

Cut a thin slice from the top and bottom of the grapefruit. Stand grapefruit upright on a cutting board. Using a sharp knife, remove peel and outer membrane from grapefruit. Cut along the membrane of each segment to remove fruit. Arrange fennel, grapefruit and onion on a serving platter.

Season with sea salt to taste, even over the grapefruit. The salt will pop up the flavor and sweetness of the fruit.

Place basil, vinegar, honey, salt and pepper in a small food processor. Cover and process until herb is finely chopped. While processing, gradually add oil in a steady stream. Drizzle over salad.

Pollo con Lime

(Chicken with lime)

Lemons are a staple in Italian home cooking. It’s easy to make a basic roasted chicken more interesting by simply cutting 2 lemons in half and stuffing them into the cavity of the chicken and bake using your normal recipe. Just one teaspoon of lemon zest added to the sauce for carbonara is a subtle change that brings a little sparkle to the dish. Be careful because you may eat more pasta than you planned. Add the zest when you toss the pasta and sauce together.Limes are not a big part of cooking in Italy, but I’m a big fan and created the following recipe to satiate my cravings.

Serves 6

1 cup flour

1 teaspoon salt

½ tsp ground black pepper

6 skinless, boneless chicken breast halves—cut into strips

1 cup butter

2 medium heads garlic, diced

1 lime, halved

Lemon pepper to taste

Mix flour, salt and pepper together in a resealable plastic bag. Add chicken, seal bag and shake to coat. Set aside.

Melt butter in a large skillet over medium heat. Add garlic and saute 3 to 4 minutes, until it starts to change color.

Add coated chicken strips and saute 10 to 15 minutes, until cooked through and juices run clear.

Squeeze lime over chicken and sprinkle with lemon pepper. Serve hot.

Limoncello Pork Loin

This is the perfect time of year to create some homemade Limoncello. Remember to use thick-skinned lemons. The Meyers won’t give you the flavor and color results that is needed. I’ve shared my Limoncello recipe several times, so won’t share here again. Please just drop me an email if you’d like me to send you the recipe personally.

Once you have created your Limoncello, you can enjoy these final recipes, which are two of my favorite creations.

Serves 8

4 pounds whole pork loin

Flour

Salt and pepper

3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil (Again, Grove 45)

1/3 cup unsalted butter

1 cup Limoncello

3 tablespoons minced garlic

1/3 cup thinly sliced pepperoncini

1 large lemon, thinly sliced

Cut loin into 1/2-inch slices. Pound each piece flat into 1/4 inch thick. Season each piece with salt and pepper. Dredge in flour, set aside.

Heat olive oil in large non-stick skillet over medium high heat. Do not allow to smoke.

Add pork pieces one at a time. Saute in batches until each piece is light golden brown on each side. About 2 minutes per side. Set pieces aside.

Reduce pan heat and melt butter. Add Limoncello carefully as it will steam high for a few seconds. Simmer for 2 minutes. Add pork back to pan, overlapping if needed.

Increase heat to medium low, sprinkle in garlic and cover pan to simmer 5 minutes.

Turn pieces. Add 6 lemon slices in between pork pieces and layer top with pepperoncini slices. Cover and simmer for 3 more minutes.

Serve on platter with all remaining sauce drizzled over pork. Garnish with remaining lemon slices.

Limoncello Pound Cake

Serves 12.

1 cup unsalted butter at room temperature, plus butter to treat baking pan

2 1/2 cups flour plus a pinch of flour to treat baking pan

1 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

3 cups sugar

2 tablespoons fresh lemon zest (1 medium lemon)

6 large eggs

1 1/2 cups sour cream

10 tablespoons Limoncello (divided)

1 cup powdered sugar

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Treat large bundt pan with butter and flour.

Combine flour, salt, baking powder and baking soda into a medium sized bowl.

In separate larger bowl, beat softened butter, sugar and lemon zest with electric mixer on medium speed, until ingredients are fully blended and fluffy.

Beat in 7 tablespoons of Limoncello. Beat in one egg at a time. Scrape bowl often.

Reduce mixer speed to low. Slowly add 1/2 flour mixture into creamed mixture until blended. Add sour cream to mixture. Add remaining flour mixture into creamed mixture. Mix just until fully blended. Don’t over-mix.

Pour batter into prepared Bundt pan. Bake until inserted toothpick comes out clean, approximately 60 to 70 minutes. Cake should be golden on top.

Cool cake in the pan for a full 30 minutes. Next, turn the cake out onto a cooling rack to cool completely.

In a small bowl, whisk the powdered sugar and 3 tablespoons Limoncello until smooth. Add a little more Limoncello if you need to create the right consistency, a thick but pourable drizzle glaze. Spoon glaze onto top of cake and allow to drizzle down the sides.

The cake must be stored covered and at room temperature to keep moist. Best enjoyed within 24 hours.

Mangia bene!

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Diane De Filipi lives in the Napa Valley and leads cooking tours to Italy and Burgundy, France. Visit letsgocookitalian.com or letsgocookleboncuisine.com for more information.

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