Q: I have been buying a lot of citrus fruits in your store and am wondering how else I can use them besides just eating them for a snack or with a meal?
A: 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. 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:
Add citrus zest and juice to pesto: Blend 2 cups fresh basil, 1/4 cup toasted pine nuts, 2 cloves garlic, zest and juice of 1 orange and 1 lemon, 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/8 teaspoon pepper in a food processor until the mixture is finely chopped. With the machine running, gradually add 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil until the mixture is smooth and creamy. Transfer to a bowl and stir in 1/4 cup shredded Parmesan cheese. Serve over your favorite fish.
Top your favorite meal dishes with gremolata: Gremolata is a combination of lemon zest, garlic, parsley and olive oil. Traditionally an addition to Osso Bucco (braised veal shanks), it is also 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. Simply combine the zest of one lemon, 2 minced garlic cloves, 2 tablespoons freshly chopped parsley, 1 teaspoon olive oil and a pinch of salt and pepper.
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 1 cup ricotta cheese, zest and juice of 1 lemon, 1/3 cup shredded Parmesan cheese, 1/4 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 1/2 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.
Add color and extra “zip” to sangria: Sangria is typically served as a summertime beverage, but this winter version is perfect for entertaining. It’s perfumed with clementines and sliced pears, and garnished with fresh pomegranate arils.
Winter Sangria with Citrus and Pomegranate Serves 10 All you need 1 pear, washed, seeded and sliced 4 clementines or 2 tangelos, washed and sliced thinly 1 apple, washed, seeded and sliced 1 cup pomegranate arils 1/4 cup sugar 1 cinnamon stick 1 bottle red wine 3 cups pomegranate juice 1 cup orange juice, ideally freshly squeezed Hy-Vee ginger ale or club soda for serving Ice cubes All you do In the bottom of a large glass pitcher or gallon jar, combine sliced fruit and pomegranate. Sprinkle with sugar and toss in the cinnamon stick. Stir in the red wine and the fruit juices. Cover and refrigerate overnight or for at least 6 hours. To serve, remove cinnamon stick, and pour over ice into glasses. Top with ginger ale or club soda to taste. Garnish with more pomegranate arils if desired.