Behold the delicious treasures of the glorious citrus peel.
As much as I love to snack on a slice of orange or add the bright zing of lime juice to a cocktail, in my opinion nothing beats the gorgeous flavor that the zest of citrus delivers. Yet tragically, I spent much of my youth tossing citrus peels into the compost without liberating the zest beforehand. What was I thinking??
The zest of lemons, limes, oranges, grapefruits, and all of their cousins is comprised of the colorful part of the peel – it’s the place where the fruit’s aromatic oils live and it is heaven on Earth. While the white part of the peel – the pith – is bitter, the colorful layer above has all the depth of the citrus flavor. The juice and flesh may have the bright acid and edible fruit, which is of course is what they’re famous for – but the zest’s rich, fruity, and floral flavor is one of the best kitchen ingredients around.
Zest can be used just about anywhere to impart its flavor: Anything from salads, hummus, pastas, and compound butters to cookie dough, pancakes, ice cream, and cake batter. And really, just about anywhere else. It’s my go-to ingredient for the best salad dressing and the secret of success for my guacamole and buttercreams. And if you use citrus already, it’s free!
WHEN TO ZEST
The best approach that I have come up with is to zest an entire fruit right before eating it or juicing it, since it’s easier to zest a whole fruit. The zest can then be used, or stored using one of the methods below.
HOW TO ZEST
The most important part is to remove only the colorful part, and avoid the bitter pith. There are a number of tools you can use for different results. I’ve made a quick visual. (Note the collapsable box grater (that fits in a drawer), one of the greatest kitchen inventions ever.)