Cauliflower steaks again? Macaroni and cheese for the second time this month? Even the most tenacious cooks get bored of food trends and reliable favorites, especially when they’re buried under endless leftovers. If you feel the desire to energize your menu, it might be time to reignite your cooking rotation with an unexpected hit of citrus flavor. Incorporating members of the citrus family—basic lemons and limes, plus more exotic varieties—is an easy cost-friendly way to liven up your recipes and bring a bright note to blah days and tired menus. Freshen up your palate and your plate with these creative citrus ideas.
Squeeze in some sun with fresh citrus juice
Freshly squeezed citrus lends an immediate punch to your cooking. Plus, since it’s free from fat or salt, fresh citrus juice is a healthful alternative. For a hearty main-course salad, sauté boneless skinless chicken breast strips in the juice of half a lemon, minced garlic, oil, and ground pepper, then crush the remaining pulp over the salad to finish with a refreshing taste. You can also create your own lemon vinaigrette.
Craving Thai? Stir-fry cubes of extra firm tofu or chicken with shelled peanuts, rainbow bell pepper strips, loosely chopped mushrooms, and onion, in a peanut stir-fry sauce. Juice half a lime over the stir-fry, saving one half for the final toss. Add cooked rice noodles to the pan and toss to coat, topping with crushed peanuts for a quick takeout meal at home.
Embrace citrus rind for a lasting kick
Citrus rind is a powerful way to brighten up baked goods. Adding finely grated rind to the dry ingredients of a recipe ensures a consistent punch of flavor that—bonus—deepens days after it comes out of the oven. Take your lemon poppy seed muffins a step further with the bittersweet tang of grapefruit zest. Infuse banana bread with the taste of the West Indies by including grated lime, complementing it with minced fresh ginger, and toasted coconut.
You can also use marmalade preserves in cooking, as in baked salmon. Whisk together a glaze of marmalade, orange zest, brown sugar, and ginger beer, then bring to a low boil over the stove, distributing evenly over each filet in its foil packet, baking at 425 degrees until done. The powerful taste of the orange rind baked into the fish is doubled with the marmalade glaze.
Update classic dishes with citrus
Cherry pie is often associated with the fresh, stem-topped fruit of summer’s harvest but is craved year round. Revive your canned cherry pie filling by adding the squeezed juice and zest of a grapefruit and an orange. Combine with freshly minced ginger and the leaves from an herbal lemon ginger tea bag. A splash of whiskey’s mellow, amber notes deepen the liquor-like juices of cherry, but the sour grapefruit more than stands up to it.
Flavor in Focus: From the sun-soaked coasts of Italy’s Calabria, the bergamot orange adds a royal touch. You’ll most often find its lush taste in bergamot extract. A natural pairing is the popular Earl Grey tea, a blend that contains flavoring from bergamot oil and is named for Earl Charles Grey of England, the prime minister from 1830 to 1834. Liven up a plain shortbread recipe with finely crushed tea leaves and a splash of bergamot extract. Upgrade a basic orange chicken stir fry by including a half teaspoon of extract in the sauce and prepare for the sensational aromatics. Got a chill? Warm up with a London Fog. Brew a strong cup of Earl Grey tea with a drop each of bergamot extract and lavender extract, then discard the bag and combine with steamed milk, topping with orange peel zest for a decadent finish.
Get ready for citrus
Many citrus fruits enjoy a long season, and some, like lemons and limes, are available year round. Keep an eye out for citrus fruits that have a shorter shelf life, like satsuma mandarins, and talk to your produce department members, who are often happy to let you know when fresh citrus is arriving. Get creative by subbing in different varieties and play around with these zesty citrus flavors to brighten up your cooking.