The glory of citrus, besides its heady, alluring fragrance and many, many kitchen uses, is that it shows up in winter, just when a burst of something fresh
and aromatic is needed to dispel the gloominess of an overcast day. That’s when
I catch a break in the weather to forage, in an urban way, for grapefruits, limes, and two kinds of lemons, all of which grow in my yard or within easy picking distance from my house. So, I recommend taking a walk around the block, talk to people who have tree fruit from which to glean. My guess is they’ll all be happy, as am I, to share the gift of their fruit, even to a passerby.
Here’s what I gleaned today:
Grapefruits, from a tree my son planted in our yard as his 10th birthday wish. Fifteen years later, he is grown and gone and the tree continues to produce prodigiously year in and year out. It’s a d’Oro Blanco grapefruit which does not make plump segments for breakfast eating, but it is excellent for sliced segments in avocado and grapefruit salad or for juicing to drink and then using the reamed out shell to make marmalade.
Bearss (odd spelling, I know) limes from my front yard, which are fabulously good-smelling and very juicy. They are primo for a lime meringue pie in a macadamia nut crust (you will have to wait a bit for that one; it’s to be in my new cookbook Bold Food, co-authored with Susanna Hoffman, out in Fall 2011 from Workman ). They also serve beautifully for a soft acid component in many Mexican and Southeast Asian dishes, plus their leaves are just as good as kafir lime leaves for Southeast Asian dishes, and easier to find here. I’ve been working on the perfect Indian-style spicy lime pickle, but haven’t got their yet–will share when I do. In the meantime, I make a simple lime mint slush with their fruit and lemon zest along with a lime leaf to substitute for lime zest, which I find unsubduably bitter.
Lime Mint Slush
1/ 2 cup superfine granulated sugar
1 cup filtered water
Grated peel of 2 organic Eureka lemons
3/ 4 cup packed fresh mint leaves
1 lime leaf, coarsely chopped
1 cup fresh lime juice
Whole fresh mint leaves, for garnishing
Place the sugar, water, and lemon peel in a small pot and bring to a boil over high heat. Add the mint, stir to mix, and set aside off the heat to steep for 15 minutes.
Strain the mixture into a 1-quart glass bowl, pressing down on the mint leaves. Stir in the lime juice and place in the freezer. When almost frozen, use a fork to break up the mixture into a slush. Return to the freezer until almost frozen again. Break up the mixture as before. Spoon into individual bowls and garnished each with a mint leaf. Makes about 2 cups.
Lemons, both Meyers and Eurekas, are prolific along my urban foraging path. I use so many lemons in my cooking, both in developing recipes for my cookbooks and for nightly dinners, I am grateful that I can gather these from around the block (with permission, of course) because my two trees do not put out enough to meet the need. Any time I am looking for a spot of fresh, lively glamour, within or outside a dish, lemons are my go-to guys.
Meyers I turn to for a soft lemon influence where aroma or fragrance is as important as a citrus zing, for instance in a Meyer lemon cake or a gentle vinaigrette for a green vegetable
Eurekas, the kind I use more often, are for everything else from a quick, salted lemon round garnish for lentil soup or broccolini, or to add the acid touch that brings together with finesse the other ingredients in a dish, such as a
Shrimp and Artichoke Platter with Lemon Gremolata
6 medium artichokes, trimmed, cooked in
boiling salted water until the bottoms of the leaves are tender, drained, and cooled
1 pound medium-to-large shrimp, with heads and tails intact, deveined
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon slivered garlic
2 teaspoons minced garlic
1/4 cup packed fresh parsley, Italian or curly leaf, chopped
1 tablespoon finely chopped lemon zest*
Fan out the leaves of the cooked artichokes and remove the chokes with a grapefruit spoon or paring knife. Place the artichokes on a large platter and set aside.
Heat the oil in a large sauté pan over medium-high heat. Add the shrimp and garlic, turn to coat, and cook until the shrimp curl and begin to turn pink, about 4 minutes. Transfer them to the platter with the artichokes, arranging them over and around the artichokes.
Toss together the minced garlic, parsley, and lemon zest to make a gremolata. Sprinkle over the shrimp and artichokes and serve.
*For this dish, peel the zest with a vegetable peeler then finely chop it so that it is a bit coarser than if gleaned with a zester.