Cooking with citrus is like cooking with sunshine—it just makes me happy and adds a fresh burst of flavor. A common question that I often get at the DLM Culinary Center is when to use citrus zest vs. juice. When juice (especially lemon) is used, it adds flavor and sourness (aka acid), plus the liquid volume. Meanwhile, zest will bolster up the citrus flavor without increasing the liquid volume. Plus, it has a pure citrus flavor from the oil stored in the outside pores of the fruit. I use zest liberally in a lot of my cooking to help add a punch of flavor.
HOW TO ZEST
• The best tool out there for zesting and one gadget I think everyone needs in their kitchen is the award-winning Microplane Zester, available at the DLM Culinary Center. It zests beautifully every single time. As a bonus, it does wonders for hard cheeses as well, like Parmigiano-Reggiano. We also love the Zyliss Zester, available in stores.
• Before zesting, make sure to wash and dry the fruit first. It is simply not fun to try and zest already cut fruit. Always cut and juice after you zest.
• Avoid the white pith of citrus fruits—that’s the stuff separating the colorful zest from the actual fruit. It’s too bitter and shouldn’t be used.
IDEAS FOR HOW TO USE ZEST
• Try adding to a simple vinaigrette to brighten things up.
• Add a new dimension by zesting a little bit of lemon, lime, or orange zest into your favorite muffin, sweet bread, scone, or biscuit recipe.
• Make anything fried taste “lighter” and brighter by adding right into the batter before frying, from donuts to fish.
• Put it in pasta to add a zip at the end that’ll help make flavors pop.
• Make a better pan sauce by enriching the pan drippings with a hit of both juice and some zest.
• The final step to any dish is the last taste to adjust the seasoning. Besides salt, citrus zest or juice helps brings out the flavors of other ingredients. It will make your dishes shine with flavor!