Roller coasters and lemon zest
I am back in France after packing up the island house, then finishing up in the Oslo house, getting back to France, catching up with people and then resting, resting, resting… and no cooking. Tomorrow I start on a three week job on a yacht; getting my camera out or spending time writing is not really going to happen. I still have quite a few photos and recipes from Norway which I want to share and if I get the time, I will.
Storm clouds gathering over Antibes
Dusk over the Oslo Fjord
But today I want to share the simplest thing. I have never really thought to share it before as I had never realised that so few people know about it or use it.
I love using lemon zest in my cooking. It was only until my boss commented on how much lemon zest I use that I finally realised how uncommon it is.
In my teaching I have had to demonstrate how to use it many times. Most people think of lemon peel as bitter. And it is. That is why lemon zest is called zest and not peel. The white part is the bitter part. So if you grate, zest or cut off the zest you need to avoid getting through to the white part. Even then you should taste it before you add it to food, as sometimes (but not often) even the zest can be bitter.
The zest has a totally different aroma to the juice. It is not sour but it has a wonderfully lemony aroma. Just smell it and you will understand. This adds an amazing flavour to so many dishes. Dressings, marinades, rice dishes, pasta sauces, desserts, vegetarian dishes and meat dishes alike. I just love it. Oh yes, and the same applies to oranges and often limes (they can sometimes be bitter).
I often have more lemons with all their zest removed than I have need for their juice in my fridge.
If this is a new concept for you. First, you need a good sharp grater or zester. You need the small side of the grater; the one that still looks like a cheese grater but is at least half the size. Not the one that turns everything to powder or pulp. It must be sharp. In the picture above, I have a lemon zester.
Otherwise you can cut the zest off the sides of the lemon, avoiding the white pith. Then chop or slice it. A little goes a long way, so don’t overdo it. Smell and taste it before adding it to food. Then taste the sauce or food after, so you can begin to understand how it affects the flavour. (You should do that with all spices and herbs. Don’t trust the recipe, trust your senses)
And a final note; cooking and eating is personal. I just love lemon zest. Other people love chilli, or sweetness, or salt. There is no right or wrong, it’s just you. Taste, experiment and trust your own palate.