It can be hard to get jazzed up about winter fruits and vegetables, but citrus is a real bright spot (literally!) in a season full of tubers and roots. And we’re not just talking about lemons and limes, but grapefruit, oranges, tangelos and more, in a number of different hybrids and varieties, that are sure to gift a lift to any hearty, cold weather dish.
So instead of going straight for those basic, supermarket lemons, how about checking out Meyer Lemons instead (one of our favorite seasonal citrus)? They have soft skin and a signature sweetness, the result of having been crossbred with Mandarins (which incidentally, are also knows as Satsumas or Clementines, and with their diminutive size, easy to remove peel, and especially juicy flesh, make a great substitute for your regular, ho-hum oranges). And speaking of oranges, there’s a world of options out there besides Valencias and Navels. Look for tart Tangerines, berry-flavored Cara Caras, or highly dramatic Blood Oranges, with eye-popping reddish-purplish flesh, and an appealing sweet and sour taste.
When it comes to limes, the sky’s the limit as well, especially if you scope out the produce aisles of international markets. In addition to prized Florida Key Limes, the small, delicate specimens used in pies, you might just come across Australian Finger Limes, also known as “citrus caviar” because of the hundreds of tiny, juice-filled balls you’ll find inside, or Southeast Asian Kaffir Limes, which are used, leaves and all, to enhance delectable curries.
And that’s just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to exotic citrus. Keep your eyes peeled for itty bitty Kumquats, Asian, grape-shaped fruits that can be eaten whole, Citron, whose candied rind is often used to stud fruitcakes, pale green Pomelo, which tastes like a less bitter grapefruit, Filipino Calamansi, the star ingredient in regional favorites like Arroz Caldo and Beef Tagalog, Japanese Yuzu, which produces a tart juice highly favored by chefs worldwide, and even the humorously-named Ugli Fruit, an admittedly lumpy and bumpy looking citrus from Jamaica, whose misshapen outside belies the especially tasty flesh within — which tastes like a cross between Seville oranges, grapefruits, and tangerines.
So how are New York chefs making the most of citrus season? We adore the refreshing, nutty Farro Salad at King Bee, interspersed with wedges of blood orange and curls of chayote. And at Food & Wine’s Chef’s Club, the current, collaborative menu includes Maine Diver Scallops with Meyer lemon, and a Green Apple dessert paired with yuzu sorbet. Justin Smillie is also loving on Yuzu at Upland, his new, California-inspired restaurant with Stephen Starr. His pillowy Yuzu Souffle is a must-order dish, layered with sour cherries and velvety calamansi curd. A super fresh Pomelo Salad also makes a sweet, light end to a meal at Upland, flavored with Thai basil and served with coconut sorbet.
Almanac is also using citrus to great effect, both in savory items (Fluke Crudo with blood orange, Squab with bergamot orange), and sweet (Yuzu-Lime Tart with lemon shortbread, Olive Oil Cake with cara cara sherbet). And the ever-popular Franny’s in Brooklyn definitely has a penchant for Meyer lemons, sprinkling their juice on top of a gloriously simple plate of Spaghetti (also try their Baked Sardines with currants, orange and pine nuts). Be sure to stop at the nearby Spirited as well, a dessert “speakeasy,” that ably combines fresh citrus with infused liqueurs in their fabulously boozy treats, such as Limoncello Linzer Cookies, Margarita Lollipops (yes, lollipops!), and Whiskey-Macerated Marshmallows, sprinkled with candied orange zest.
So whether you’re eating out or simply experimenting with citrus yourself at home, don’t draw the line at run-of-the-mill lemons and limes. Because goodness knows, we need all of the vivid and vibrant flavor we can get in the middle of dark, gloomy, root and tuber-centric winter!
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