Getting creative with citrus

Published 5:44 pm Saturday, January 11, 2014

SPCitrusWith the changing of the seasons, different fruits are at their peak throughout the year.

Right now, think citrus. It is part of my ABC (Apples, Bananas, and Citrus) recommendation in the produce aisle for what fruits you can have on hand all the time because they keep well, are versatile and affordable, and of course, nutritious.

This time of year, we find the number of clementines, oranges, lemons and grapefruits (just to name a few) are so abundant that it seems impossible to figure out what to do with them all.

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The fact is, citrus is versatile. It’s a no-brainer when it comes to enlivening the usual applications — vinaigrettes, salads, desserts — but there’s more than meets the eye, especially in the case of unique varieties. Here are some fun ways to bring your favorite dishes to another level of flavor:

 1. Add citrus zest and juice to pesto

Blend two cups fresh basil, a one-quarter cup toasted pine nuts, two cloves garlic, zest and juice of one orange and one lemon, half a teaspoon salt and one-eighth teaspoon pepper in a food processor until the mixture is finely chopped. With the machine running, gradually add a half cup extra-virgin olive oil until the mixture is smooth and creamy. Transfer to a bowl and stir in one-quarter cup shredded parmesan cheese. Serve over your favorite fish.

 2. Top your favorite meal dishes with gremolata

Gremolata is a combination of lemon zest, garlic, parsley and olive oil. It’s great as a garnish on grilled or roasted lamb, pork chops, beef and even roasted potatoes. Gremolata is best made fresh — it doesn’t keep for more than a day — but is also best if it has an hour or so before serving for the flavors to meld. Fortunately it only takes about five minutes to make. To prepare, simply combine the zest of one lemon, two-minced garlic cloves, two-tablespoons freshly chopped parsley, one-teaspoon olive oil and a pinch of salt and pepper.

 3. Brighten up ricotta.

Ricotta cheese has a very mild flavor but with the addition of citrus juice and zest, it comes to life. Stir together one cup ricotta cheese, zest and juice of one lemon, one-third cup shredded parmesan cheese, one-quarter teaspoon salt and a pinch of nutmeg and freshly ground black pepper. Smear on a whole wheat flatbread or pizza crust and top with trimmed and diced asparagus and one-half cup mozzarella cheese. Bake at 450 degrees for 10-15 minutes until golden brown. Finish with more fresh lemon juice and a sprinkle of fresh chopped flat-leaf parsley.

Citrus salad with clementine-avocado vinaigrette

Makes 6 servings

All you need

•4 cups baby arugula leaves

•2 medium clementine oranges or other kind of oranges, peeled and cut into wedges

•2 medium blood oranges, peeled and cut crosswise into slices (like circles)

•1 peeled and seeded avocado

•2 seeded and chopped jalapeño pepper

•3 tablespoons fresh lime juice

•1 cup fresh squeezed orange juice (from clementines)

•½ cup cilantro leaves

•1 clove garlic

 All you do

1. To serve, arrange arugula leaves, orange sections and orange slices on a serving platter or 6 salad plates.

2. Place avocado, jalapeño, lime juice, orange juice, cilantro and garlic in food processor or blender.  Blend until dressing consistency.  Season to taste with salt and pepper.  Serve with salad.