Seasonal Fare with Flair: Citrus

Citrus tips, tidbits, and recipes from our demo diva, Victoria Hicks.

The citrus family of fruits includes the grapefruit, kumquat, lemon, lime, orange, tangelo, tangerine, and ugli fruit. Native to southeast Asia, citrus fruits prefer tropical climates and thrive in many Central and South American countries, as well as Arizona, California, Florida, and Texas. Sweet, tart, and bitter all at once, citrus fruits are rich in vitamin C.

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Citrus is irreplaceable in cooking. Fresh lemons, available all year, are an essential flavoring for hollandaise and mayonnaise. When used in marinades, lemons and limes contribute acidity that acts as a tenderizer. Lime juice “cooks” raw fish for seviche.

Citrus fruit that is firm and heavy in the hand means it is full of juice. Rough, brownish areas on the skin don’t affect flavor or quality, but avoid fruit that is overripe, scarred, moldy, or has soft spots. Choose grapefruit that have thin, fine-textured, brightly colored skin. They should be firm yet springy when held in the palm and pressed.

On a recent trip to California to visit my cousin, I had the delight to be surrounded by the lush, fragrant Meyer lemon trees in her garden. We ate them as one would eat oranges, they were so sweet. —Victoria Hicks

Kotopolo Riganato kai—Lemonato Roast Chicken with Oregano and Lemon

Serves 4

This savory Greek roast chicken can also be made with rosemary in place of the oregano.

1 roasting chicken, 4-5 lb

Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

1 lemon, quartered

6 cloves garlic, crushed

¼ cup dried oregano

½ cup olive oil

¼ cup lemon juice, or to taste

Preheat oven to 375°F. Pat the chicken dry and sprinkle inside and out with salt and pepper. Place the lemon quarters, three garlic cloves, and a little of the oregano in the cavity. In a small saucepan over medium heat, warm the oil. Add the remaining garlic and the remaining oregano and warm through. Add the lemon juice, and season to taste with salt and pepper. Remove from the heat and set aside. Place the chicken, breast side up, on a rack in a roasting pan. Brush once with some of the oil-lemon mixture, and place in the oven. Roast, basting often with more of the lemon-oil mixture, until golden brown and tender, about 1½ hours. The juices should run clear when the chicken is pierced at the thigh joint. Transfer to a warmed platter, let rest for several minutes, then carve and serve.

Cook’s Note: Potatoes are often roasted along with the chicken. Peel 2 pounds, cut into quarters, and place in the roasting pan along with a dozen garlic cloves. Add 1 cup water or chicken stock. Once the chicken is ready, remove it from the pan, and raise the oven temperature to 450° for several minutes to color the potatoes. Serve them on the side with the pan juices.

—Adapted from The Best Book of Greek Cookery by Chrissa Paradissis

DID YOU KNOW? Toward the end of the 15th century, scurvy became the major cause of disability and mortality among sailors on long sea voyages. In 1753, Scottish naval surgeon James Lind showed that scurvy could be cured and prevented by ingestion of the juice of oranges and lemons. Soon citrus fruits became so common aboard ship that British sailors were referred to as “limeys.”

Salad with Grapefruit, Avocado, and Hearts of Palm

Serves 8

2 ruby-red or pink grapefruits

1 Tbs. finely minced shallots

1 1/2 tsp. Dijon mustard

¼ tsp. wasabi powder or paste

2 Tbs. white wine vinegar

2 tsp. soy sauce

2 Tbs. chopped fresh basil, plus leaves for garnish

salt and pepper

1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil

2 avocadoes, peeled and pitted

4 hearts of palm, cut in ½-inch thick rounds

4 Tbs. chopped macadamia nuts

1 large head Boston lettuce, well washed and dried

Cut ends off grapefruit; remove peel, pith and outer membranes. Holding the grapefruit over a bowl to catch the juice, remove whole sections, one by one, cutting downward on either side of the membrane surrounding them. Squeeze ½ cup juice from membranes into a bowl for dressing.

Place shallots, mustard, wasabi, vinegar, soy sauce, juice, and basil in a bowl; season with salt and pepper. Whisk to combine. Gradually whisk in olive oil and adjust seasoning. Cut avocados into ½ inch thick wedges.

Arrange lettuce leaves on a platter or in a bowl, then alternate grapefruit, avocado, and hearts of palm on top. Dress to taste with the vinaigrette. Garnish with basil and macadamia nuts and serve.

Broiled Grapefruit

This makes a fast, light, and delicious dessert. Or serve for breakfast, minus the Grand Marnier.

For each serving, allow half a grapefruit. Remove the seeds with the point of a knife or spoon. Cut around the membranes and between the outer peel and the pulp to loosen the sections. Arrange the halves on a baking sheet and sprinkle them lightly with about 2 tsp. brown sugar. Add ½ tsp. Grand Marnier to each one (optional). Dot with 1 tsp. butter cut into small pieces. Preheat the broiler. Broil the grapefruit with the surface 5 inches from the heat until the topping is brown and bubbly, about 5 minutes.


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