Have you ever had a recipe call for the zest of a lemon or other citrus fruit and you have no idea what it means? No worries, I will explain this simple task.
Zesting is the process of removing only the colored part of citrus fruit skin or rind. The colored area is where the esssential oils reside and they infuse fresh flavor sinto the dish. You don’t want any of the white pulpy part just beneath the skin because it can be very bitter.
The easiest way to zest is with either a specialty tool designed specficially for it – or using a grater. Depending upon the recipe you can use a grater of various size holes or openings. Smaller holes create teeny tine zests which will meld into the dish and almost disappear, visually at least because the flavor is present. The larger kitchen grater box, you know the big one with the handle on top, may provide larger zests that could be useful in some baked goods where the moisture of the dough and the process of baking will soften the usually tough texture of larger chunks of citrus skin.
My favorite is a medium grate hand-held grater – there are many sizes of these on the market include the micro-planers, but I consider this best used on dry items like nuts or very dry hard cheesses, the grates are too small for material that is moist as it tendes to clog up and it’s a pain to clean! I use the hand-held medium grater for so many purposes in the kitchen it’s a Miss Laura’s Basic! There is alos a tool designed to make ribbons of citrus skin, you often see bartenders use these to make the garnish for drinks, and the ribbons are pretty to decorate cakes and even some main dishes, but I find they are too large for most recipes.
Tip: Add the zest towards the end of cooking, remove the pan from heat and stir in.
By the way, zests add zing to many main course. I love to zest lemon in pasta dishes, lime & lemon with fish, and it goes without sayin a zest of lemon on a dessert adds a touch of style to the presentation and freshness to the flavor profile. Lemon and orange zests are a tasty addition to a salad, fresh fruit or even spicey salsa. Experiment and share with us all your favorite way to use citrus zest.
Happy Zesting! ~ML