It has always seemed rather fitting to me, that amidst the dreary, bleak, cold winter we’re given the bright, tangy citrus season. It’s as if Mother Nature had this all perfectly planned out and knew that while we hide indoors all winter long, we’ll require mood-lifters like blood oranges, tangerines, and grapefruit. Something I learned rather quickly from attending a French culinary school is the difference lemon zest can have in a recipe. Adding lemon zest, something so simple and basic, can take your dish to the next level. This can be true for a sauce, brine, filling, cookie, bread, cake, or even frosting. Moving to California introduced me to the sheer fragrance of a Meyer lemon; something so small but so deliciously potent.
Types of Citrus—there are quite a few but here are some:
Bergamot—shape of an orange but color of a lemon; highly fragrant and not used for juice. Used in Earl Gray tea and essential oils.
Navel Orange- Round thick skinned juicy edible fruit that is a reddish-yellow color when ripe.
Clementine/Mandarin /Tangerine/Satsuma-- type of small, sweet orange with loose skin.
Blood Orange-- a variety of an orange with crimson, almost-blood colored flesh.
Grapefruit--Large round yellow citrus fruit with acid juicy flesh.
Citron-- The citron fruit is usually ovate or oblong; the outer is uniformly thin and very fragrant. The pulp is usually acidic, but also can be sweet.
Buddha’s Hand—a “fingered” variety of a citron.
Kumquat--the kumquat is like a citrus fruit and has an edible skin.
You may never have heard of many of these—they’re all grown in California, Florida, or oversee so they’re not regularly available. Bergamot oil can be found at Whole Foods or your local health food store and I can’t recommend enough for you to purchase some. Just one tiny drop added to your meringue, frosting, or cookie can make a profound impact on your taste buds! And kumquats can be eaten whole and raw, just watch out for the seeds! If you can’t handle the intense citrus-flavor, go ahead and boil them in some simple syrup for a little sweetness.
I grew up eating Clementine’s each winter as if they’re candy, and never knew there were so many different types! They’re all delicious and slightly different in flavor. My absolutely favorite is a Satsuma; slightly smaller and more easy to peel, the Satsuma is usually seedless and a bit more aromatic than your usual Clementine. While we’re talking oranges: there is nothing more exciting than peeling back the skin to discover a blood orange! These guys are pretty delicious and quite picturesque!
Now some recipes for you to experiment with citrus this winter season…
Lemon Shortbread with Fresh Rosemary
~from the One Girl Cookies cookbook
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon table salt
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
¾ cup granulated sugar
2 tablespoons grated lemon zest
2 tablespoons chopped fresh rosemary
1 large egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Turbinado sugar, for sprinkling
- Whisk the flour and salt together in a medium bowl.
- In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat together the butter and sugar on medium speed until the mixture is light yellow and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Add the lemon zest and rosemary and mix on medium speed for 30 seconds. Add egg and vanilla and mix on medium speed for 1 minute. Reduce the mixer speed to low. Gradually add the dry ingredients, stopping 2 to 3 times during mixing to scrape down the bowl. Mix until the dough is just beginning to come together. Do not over mix.
- Turn the dough out onto a cutting board. Dust lightly with flour and split dough in half.
- Place a sheet of parchment paper on the cutting board, and put half of the dough on the parchment paper. Flatten the dough slightly with your hand and then top with a second sheet of parchment paper. Roll the dough out between the two sheets of parchment paper to about ½ inch thickness. You can use a light dusting of flour if the dough is sticky.
- Transfer the dough to a baking sheet and put it in the refrigerator for about 30 minute
- Preheat the oven to 350°F
- Remove the dough from the refrigerator, peel off both sheets of parchment, and put the dough on a cutting board. Using a cookie cutter, cut out the dough. Place cookies onto parchment paper lined baking sheets. Reserve the scraps of dough; it can be rerolled to make more cookies. Sprinkle a pinch of Turbinado sugar on the top of each cookie.
- Bake the cookies for 10 to 12 minutes or until they have a slight golden color around the edge. Transfer the cookies to a wire rack to cool completely.
Tips: Turbinado sugar is also called sugar in the raw and can be found in most specialty food stores.
Recipes from around the web…
Joy the Baker: spinach, feta, blood orange salad
Smitten Kitchen: nectarine, mascarpone, and gingersnap tart
Eat, Live, Run: spicy grapefruit margaritas