When you’re eating a piece of chicken breast or some leftover pasta do you ever wonder how you could improve the flavor in a fast way that will not make you start from scratch? The simple answer is add a bit of citrus. I know you’re thinking that lime-flavored pasta or tangerine flavored chicken sounds weird but it’s actually surprisingly good and takes only a small amount of time to prepare. A little squeeze of lemon or zest of an orange can make the blandest of foods turn into little masterpieces bursting with flavor and vitamins. I hope from reading this you will come to love citrus the same way I do.
I often come home from school tired and don’t want to spend all night making dinner, so I turn to my trusty oven and pre-heat it to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. In a shallow glass pan, I put some olive oil, some properly defrosted chicken breasts (defrosted in the fridge not the counter or in hot water), some Mrs. Dash’s Chicken Grilling seasoning blend, light Italian dressing, and then pour in enough orange juice or tangerine juice to partially submerge my chicken. I let the oven do its job, and after two hours I cut into a piece to make sure it is not pink in the middle (smaller pieces may cook faster). This is a simple recipe that turns my boring chicken breast into a savory piece of poultry. With a little rice pilaf and some veggies on the side, I have a dish that tastes great and will give me leftovers for days.
Some of us don’t have two hours to wait or are just too hungry, so here is an even easier recipe. Throw leftover pasta and chopped pre-cooked chicken in a bowl and microwave it for a minute or so. Add a little olive oil, squeeze or zest a small amount of your favorite citrus fruit (the zest is the outer layer of a citrus fruit that you would normally peel away and you can even use those pre-juiced lemons or limes), and add salt and pepper to make a simple pasta sans sauce. I do not like pasta sauce that much so this is a great substitute for it and it is a great way to utilize leftovers.
For those who enjoy taking more time to cook and being more adventurous I recommend stir frying or sautéing some chicken or seafood and veggies (my favorite combination is chicken or shrimp — I know shellfish is not kosher but it I eat it anyway) and adding whatever citrus fruit you feel like. Add the juice, the zest, or even cut up the entire fruit and cook it with your meat and veggies. You can even add your leftover pasta right back in the pan with the stir fry if you want to use up those leftovers. It adds some pizzazz to your meal and brings out a lot of the natural flavors in foods.
Cooking with citrus is not the only way they can be used. Have you ever found that cutting a piece of fruit too soon can cause browning? The fruit’s inside is exposed to oxygen which causes a reaction to change the color. Adding some lemon juice to a cut up piece of fruit can limit and sometimes prevent the browning from occurring. Most of us also eat citrus fruits such as grapefruits and mandarins by themselves which give us a great source of vitamin C and can help hydrate us since they are mostly made of water.
All in all, the simple lemon that used to just make you lemonade has many more functions than you could imagine. Try one of these recipes or even create your own. Citrus fruits and juices are generally cheap and can be found in any grocery store. The best part is they are low in calories and make your food taste delicious.
The next time you’re in a rut looking for that special ingredient to make your food taste better, grab a piece of citrus and let the juices flow because a little citrus goes a long way.