Monday, April 25, 2011

Bring Back the Twist

It is rare these days to order a drink with a twist of lemon or lime and get a real twist.  Usually, the drink arrives with a tiny wedge of peel, pith and juicy segment smushed to the side of the glass.  A real twist is all about the oils of the fruit’s skin and with the right tool (or even a vegetable peeler and a little technique) it is not hard to get this essence of citrus into a drink (or a food recipe). 

Watch closely for the tiny spray of lemon oil bursting from a twisted yellow peel into a very dry martini and breathe in through your nose to capture the lemony essence.  You’ll actually be able to see little pools of lemon oil on the surface of your drink.  And taste it on your lips.  That’s what a twist of lemon is meant to be. 

To easily procure a twist of lemon (or lime) use a zester.  Even if you are not a foodie who collects kitchen gadgets, this is an inexpensive tool that you will use every week, perhaps even several times a week, once you own one.  Not only will you get more bang for your lemon bucks since you will use more of the fruit, you’ll enjoy the impact of the pure citrus taste the peel brings.   For today try peeling a lemon using a vegetable peeler. Don’t dig too deep; back off when you see any of the white pith under your blade.  By the time you have cut the peel away from an entire lemon, you will be quite adept. 

Before I owned a zester, I used to finely slice the peeled peel and use it as zest in fruit salads.  A zester has two cutting surfaces and allows you to perform two useful functions: 1) pull a twist of citrus and 2) shred the peel for use in fruit salads, poultry marinades and rubs, salad dressings, baked goods and more (much like a microplaner).  Anywhere you would use a little citrus flavor is fitting for the flavorful oils that burrow in the peel.  This is pure flavor.

Always zest before cutting into the fruit.  It is easier to apply a bit of pressure on an uncut piece of citrus.  You’ll find many uses on your own.  Here are few ideas to get you started:

House Lemon Pepper Seasoning
Zest an entire lemon and mix with equal parts cracked black pepper. (Salt is optional.)  This is a terrific seasoning for chicken.

Lemon Vodka
Fill a pint jar or bottle with a screw top with plain vodka.  Add lemon peel (twists) and close.  Store in a cool dark spot for 3 weeks.  Enjoy lemon vodka in martinis. Bloody Marys or with tonic.

Lemon Marinated Olives
1 cup assorted olives- any combination, packed in brine.
Lemon peel from 1 lemon
2 teaspoon olive oil
1 spring fresh rosemary or thyme
optional: red pepper flakes)

  1. Preheat oven to 325˚F.  
  2. Drain olives.  
  3. Combine all ingredients in a foil-lined baking pan. Cover with more foil and bake 15-20 minutes.  
Olives may be eaten when cooled to room temperature or chilled for use in a few hours.  Olives keep, refrigerated, for up to 3 days.