By Betsi Peirce

A customer and I were chatting in the aisle the other day while she tasted a few of our choice citrus offerings (I believe it was Texas Rio Star grapefruit  and Minneola tangelos) and we got giggling about all the cliché but utterly real ways citrus can brighten even the coldest winter day. It is like eating a ray of sunshine, it makes a person happy and it brightens up a dreary room. Even looking at pictures of citrus while writing this article made me feel cheery – all those bright yellows and oranges and greens- it is like eye candy when all I see outside is white, white, white.  Not surprisingly, the essential oils of citrus all have mood lightening properties so it is truly no joke that peeling an orange or tangerine or zesting a lemon can be uplifting, balancing, calming and even anti-depressive.

There are plenty of people who really like to just eat their citrus and that is great. There are others who enjoy using citrus creatively in their cooking. I am one who is never without lemons or limes and in the absence of either of those I have been known to pitch hit with orange juice or zest.  There are a few tools of the trade that make using citrus in your kitchen easier and frankly, more fun! Of course, a good sharp knife goes a long way. But my favorite toy is a Microplane. It is an extremely sharp and very fine grater which can be used for multiple purposes. It makes zesting a cinch as well as grating nutmeg, cinnamon, chocolate, and hard cheese. They are available in fine kitchen stores (our very own Ace Kitchen Store carries them). There are also lots of great “juice extractors” out there. At home I have an old fashioned glass one which I think works well. We also carry “Citrus Reamers” at the co-op which are hand held wooden squeezers and they work well too!

A few of my late winter favorite citrus fruits are either just rolling in the door, or are about to show up any minute. Here’s a brief and not complete overview:

Meyer Lemons – are a big favorite of mine. Smooth skin, canary yellow, the color of (free range) egg yolks. You may wonder if they are truly worth the extra price – of course I think so, though they are not to be squandered away in any old dish. Preferably you would want to choose a recipe that uses both the fragrant zest and the sweet juice. Because they’re sweeter and less acidic than other lemons, with an intoxicating aroma that has hints of honey and thyme, they can be easily used for either sweet or savory cooking. The uses for Meyer lemons range from delicious tangy baked lemon custards to savory pasta dishes or for stuffing slices under the skin of a roasting chicken.

Kumquats- Hardly bigger than a large olive, the Kumquat looks like a tiny and somewhat-round orange. A native of China, the Kumquat is a citrus fruit that is entirely edible. The orange skin of the Kumquat is juicy and sweet, while its flesh remains dry and slightly tart. Although the Kumquat can be served fresh and mixed in salads, it is more commonly cooked and used in syrups and preserves. My favorite is a refrigerator kumquat pie. Last year it was quite the phenomena for kids on middle school tours to try the kumquat by rolling it in their hands first to release all the fragrant oils and then they bit into it. Most came back again and again to buy more for the intense sensory experience (and to convince their friends to try them.)  They are in short supply this year so get them while you can!

Minneola Tangeloes- are tender, juicy, deep orange, have few seeds and a wonderful floral after taste. The Minneola is a cross between a grapefruit and a Dancy tangerine, and in my opinion it is one of the best citrus fruits in the case every winter. They are a nice balance of tart and sweet and are great in salads or eaten alone.

White grapefruit – or Oro Blanco is what grapefruit lovers call the “classic grapefruit”. That may indicate tartness to some of you, but white grapefruit is not tart! It is sweet and extremely tender. It is not as high in vitamin A as the ruby grapefruit, but still worth it for its juicy tenderness. They come from Florida and are usually around for a few months.

To the right are a wide range of recipes to try out your new citrus savvy!

Avocado and Pink Grapefruit Salad with Coriander

Bon Appétit | November 2008


Yield: Makes 2 servings    Active Time: 20 minutes    Total Time: 20 minutes

2 TX Rio Star grapefruits
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon minced shallot
1 teaspoon soy sauce
1/2 teaspoon honey
1/4 teaspoon Asian sesame oil
1 teaspoon grated peeled fresh ginger
1 teaspoon coriander seeds, cracked
2 cups (packed) mixed baby greens
1 small avocado, halved, pitted, peeled

Using small sharp knife, cut off peel and white pith from 1 grapefruit. Cut grapefruit crosswise into 4 slices. Cut second grapefruit in half and squeeze enough juice to measure 3 tablespoons. Whisk juice, olive oil, and next 6 ingredients in small bowl. Season dressing to taste with salt and pepper. Toss greens with 2 tablespoons dressing in medium bowl and divide between 2 plates. Arrange grapefruit slices and avocado alongside and spoon remaining dressing over.

Nutritional information:
Per serving: 368.55 Calories (kcal), 63.6 % Calories from Fat, 26.08 g Fat, 3.68 g Saturated Fat, 0 mg Cholesterol, 36.20 g Carbohydrates, 10.17 g Dietary Fiber, 3.62 g Total Sugars, 26.03 g Net Carbs, 3.94 g Protein.

Meyer Lemon Cranberry Scones
Gourmet | May 1997
Yield: Makes 16

2 tablespoons freshly grated lemon zest (from about 3 lemons; preferably Meyer)
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup sugar plus 3 tablespoons additional if using fresh cranberries
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 stick (6 tablespoons) cold unsalted butter, cut into bits
1 1/4 cups fresh cranberries, chopped coarse, or 1 1/4 cups dried cranberries or dried cherries
1 large egg
1 large egg yolk
1 cup heavy cream

Accompaniment: crème fraîche or whipped cream
Preheat oven to 400°F. and line a large baking sheet with parchment paper.
With a vegetable peeler remove the zest from lemons and chop fine, reserving lemons for another use.
In a food processor pulse flour, 1/2 cup sugar, baking powder, salt, butter and zest until mixture resembles coarse meal and transfer to a large bowl.
In a small bowl toss together fresh cranberries and 3 tablespoons sugar and stir into flour mixture. If using dried fruit, add to flour mixture.
In another small bowl lightly beat egg and yolk and stir in cream. Add egg mixture to flour mixture and stir until just combined.

On a well-floured surface with floured hands pat dough into a 1-inch-thick round (about 8 inches in diameter) and with a 2-inch round cutter or rim of a glass dipped in flour cut out as many rounds as possible, rerolling scraps as necessary. Arrange rounds about 1 inch apart on baking sheet and bake in middle of oven 15 to 20 minutes, or until pale golden.

Serve scones warm with crème fraîche or whipped cream. Scones keep, individually wrapped in plastic wrap and foil, chilled, 1 day or frozen 1 week.