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what you need to know

Root Source: Lemon Zest


what you should know


Our anti-fruit sauce zealotry got some people worked up last week. As a gesture of fruit-love, we decided to make peace with this week's root source on lemon zest.


why zest? James Beard chose the perfect word when he wrote that the lemon is "irreplaceable" in cooking. Lemon dignifies whatever it touches. Zest, the outer, yellow surface, is the intense, perfumed essence of the lemon. As a bright flavoring or finish, it acts like a spice or an herb. When you zest a lemon, you're basically taking the color from it and using that color to enliven something else.


5 zest notes 1. Buy firm, thick-skinned lemons that are heavy for their size. 2. Non-organic lemons have been sprayed with pesticides and other treatments. They've also been handled, dropped on the floor, and who knows what else. Before zesting a lemon, scrub it with a brush and a little soap and water. Then, rinse it well and dry it. 3. Zest only the outer yellow surface of the lemon. Avoid the bitter, white pith just below the surface. (And unless you're a "fruit detective," also avoid the pith helmet.) 4. Don't zest the lemon until you're ready to use it. 5. Then again, get in the habit of zesting every lemon you buy. If you're not using the zest right away, it will keep for a few months in the freezer.


what you need


How you zest a lemon depends on what kind of zest you want. For a fine, airy zest, use a Microplane or some other fine grater. For a julienne cut, use a zester. For longer, thicker strips of zest, use a vegetable peeler.


Cookbook author Lori Longbotham specializes in desserts, but in her comprehensive Lemon Zest, she features some delicious savory dishes as well.



what you do


As a nod to the last days of winter, brighten a dish of collard greens and white beans with lemon zest and hot sauce.


As a nod to the first days of spring (one more week), get outside and grill a New York strip with a spicy gremolata vinaigrette.


As a nod to arborio rice (why not?), try this cremini mushroom risotto that highlights the natural affinity between thyme and lemon.


Sealed inside parchment paper, lemon zest perfumes a salmon, fennel and potato papillote.

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