I did not realize how important citrus zest was until I used it for the first time. Citrus zest is one of the easiest ways to infuse a citrus flavor into your favorite dishes.
So what is citrus zest? Citrus zest is part of the peel, but it is not the same thing as the peel or rind. Citrus zest is the colorful outer layer of the citrus peel, green for lime, yellow for lemons and orange for lemons. The zest contains lots of essential oils that make for a strong, pleasant flavor. The soft, white part of the peel just underneath the citrus zest is the pith. The pith has a bitter flavor to it, with very little citrus taste at all – it’s just bad!
Citrus zest can be removed very carefully with a sharp paring knife, but the easiest and most effective way to remove the citrus zest is with a microplane or zester. You can find these in the kitchen section of most any store or at Amazon.com for about $10-$15 bucks.
Remember to always wash your fruit well, before zesting it and make sure to dry it off well with a paper towel or kitchen towel.
Zest can be added to all kinds of recipes. Unlike lemon or orange juice, it doesn’t throw off the chemistry of the recipe (either by adding more acidity or more liquid), so you can feel confident adding a teaspoon or even a tablespoon of zest to just about any recipe you want to make a little brighter. Adding zest to a recipe that already has citrus juice is a great way to enhance the flavor that is already there, as well.
Once you have zested the citrus, the fruit can be wrapped tightly in plastic wrap to keep it from drying out and stored at room temperature for several days or in the refrigerator for a longer period of time.