When I lived in New York, my friends Lynne and Dana (😘😘😘) had an annual beach party. The “beach” was their apartment, decorated with cutouts of starfish and mermaids and snacks served in sand pails. And the timing of the party was not summer but mid-February—just when you were so tired of winter that going to a friend’s, stripping down to shorts and a Hawaiian shirt, and dancing to “Twisting by the Pool” was just what the doctor ordered. It. Was. The. Greatest.
What does this have to do with cooking? Well, right about now, you might also be getting tired of winter and its culinary equivalent—roasts, braises, soups, and stews. But nicely coincidentally, it’s also citrus season. And like a beach-themed party in February, bright, tingly lemons, limes, oranges, mandarins, and more can be just what the doctor ordered.
So let sunshine in with a citrusy dessert—for example, orange pound cake, key lime pie, or these Lemon Bars with Cardamom (adapted from a recipe from my café, where lemon bars were one of the most popular items on the menu). Any would be a welcome treat on a winter’s day.
But don’t stop there. Citrus brightness can work in savory dishes too. You can add whole slices or pieces of citrus to braises, stir-frys, and stuffed roasts.
Zest—even a little can brighten and balance a rich dish. Osso Bucco, for example. It’s often garnished with gremolata, a combination of parsley, garlic, and lemon zest, adding welcome sparkle to the meaty dish. Gremolata is also great with short ribs and lamb or pork shanks. Other savory spots for zest include risotto, roasted vegetables, and pot roast.
And don’t forget a simple squeeze of citrus for easy and instant brightness. Squeeze a wedge over Mexican dishes, into pan sauces, and onto steaks or chops.
(But also—make Lemon Bars.)
Don’t get me wrong. Citrusy brightness is almost always nice. But right now, towards the end of what can sometimes be a dreary season, that sparkly tickle of sunshine is almost like medicine.
So drink, squeeze, slice, and zest it in.
And a few beachy tunes never hurt.
Special hugs to Lynne, Dana, and fellow beach party attendees. Thank you for dreaming up and participating in such an awesome, appreciated, and superfun tradition.
Wintery recipes featuring citrus:
Lemon Bars with Cardamom
Easy Orange Marmalade Bars
Orange Creamsicle Floats with Sparkling Wine
Roasted Brussels Sprouts and Potatoes with Lemon and Rosemary
Filet of Sole with Lemon-Wine Pan Sauce
Orange Chicken Stir-Fry with Rice Noodles
Lemon- and Prosciutto-Stuffed Pork Loin
Spice-Braised Brisket with Shallot and Tangerines
Rosemary Meyer Lemon Drop