Zest for lifeJune 2, 2009
For I now am in love with a six-dollar zester – it takes up no space, and is perfectly designed to take exactly the right depth of citrus peel for flavour and texture.
I realise now that a grater either takes too much or (in the case of our super-fine Microplane), too little, with the latter result being a sort of vaguely citrusy fairy floss instead of the sharp, fresh zing required. And digging too deeply, of course, means icky bitter pith.
And as for lemons, oranges and limes, and why these zesty friends must be included in life’s truly essential ingredients – well, you all know. ’Sundry items too numerous to mention’, as the old clearance sale adverts in the Cooma-Monaro Express used to say. We’re talking sharpening up and /or sweetening everything from lamb shanks to roast chook to fruit salad to curries to chocolate cake.
Maggie Beer puts citrus peel in everything – from this incredibly delicious Moroccan poached ocean trout (have cooked several times, it’s from my treasured copy of Maggie’s Table that chefbro Hamish gave me for Christmas – personally signed and everything, following their cooking gig together in Shangers) to the completely different but equally luscious Haloumi & Citrus Lentils (ditto).
The zesting of a lemon could never be described as a recipe, but this is an ingredient I use so often that it warrants a mention …
Lemon zest works beautifully when tossed into a simple salad whose leaves include basil, mint, chervil and rocket. The addition of grated Parmesan, lemon juice and good olive oil is all that is needed, in my mind, to creat a perfect green salad.
The tangy zest also cleans up the flavour of many desserts that would otherwise seem a fraction too sweet. Similarly, it works well to counteract the potentially cloying flavour of pickled fruits. In essence, lemon zest is a simple, quick way to add freshness to your cooking. There is no real secret, just be sure that to use the finest holes on your grater and only use the yellow part of the skin. The white pith tends to taste very bitter. Grate your zest as close as possible to the time that you are going to use it, as it will dry out fairly quickly if left out uncovered, or indeed even covered in the fridge overnight.