By Emily Weinstein, The New York Times
Citrus season has now arrived, a jewel-toned gift to those of us who live somewhere that’s currently gray. Like many people, I gravitate toward stews and braises this time of year, the genre of home cooking that can best be described as “something in warm sauce.”
But I love to cut through that richness with the magnificent citrus you can find right now: lemons, limes, grapefruit, mandarins, tangerines, blood oranges and so on. The list is long, and the flavors are bracing.
While some dishes showcase peak-season fruit — I’m thinking of citrus salad — most can be made with any fruit you find at the store. The weeknight recipes below will certainly work well.
1. Pan-Seared Fish With Citrus Pesto
Genovese pesto isn’t the only pesto around: There are many regional variations, including an incredibly vibrant and light Sicilian version that stars citrus. This naturally vegan version doesn’t need cheese, because the citrus provides acidity and the capers and toasted nuts lend umami. Pistachios and almonds grow abundantly in Sicily, but walnuts or pine nuts would also work. You’ll find citrus pestos made with anchovies, garlic, dried oregano, fennel fronds, dried chile and, yes, cheese, so feel free to adapt this base recipe as you wish. Italians historically don’t mix seafood and cheese, but since this pesto eschews cheese, it’s as good with pasta as it is with simply seared or grilled fish.
By Ali Slagle
Yield: 4 servings
Total time: 30 minutes
For the pesto:
- 1/2 cup toasted pistachios or slivered almonds
- 2 teaspoons drained and rinsed capers
- Kosher salt (such as Diamond Crystal)
- 2 cups mint or basil leaves (or a combination)
- 1 tablespoon lemon, tangerine or grapefruit zest plus 3 tablespoons juice
- 1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil, plus more as needed
For the fish:
- 4 (6-ounce) fish fillets, such as arctic char, striped bass or salmon, skin on or off
- Extra-virgin olive oil, for greasing
1. To make the pesto, add the pistachios, capers and 1 teaspoon salt to a food processor and process until coarsely chopped. Add the herbs, citrus juice and a pinch of salt and pulse until the herbs are finely chopped and the nuts are about the size of sesame seeds. Add the olive oil and pulse just until combined. Stir in 1 teaspoon of citrus zest. Taste, then continue to add more zest and salt until the pesto is citrusy and punchy. Thin with 2 to 3 more tablespoons of olive oil until it’s the consistency of a loose paste. Taste, and adjust seasonings as needed. (To use the pesto on pasta, see Tip.)
2. To make the fish, season it all over with salt and oil. Working in batches if necessary, add the fish (skin-side down, if your fillets are skin-on) to a large (12-inch) nonstick skillet, then heat over medium. Cook until the flesh is opaque 3/4 of the way up the sides, 6 to 12 minutes, depending on the thickness of the fish. If the fish is buckling, press it down with a spatula so it makes contact with the skillet. Flip and cook until cooked through, 1 to 2 minutes. Transfer to plates, skin-side up if serving skin-on fish, and eat with a spoonful of pesto.
TIP: To make pesto pasta, skip the additional 2 to 3 tablespoons oil and toss the thick pesto with cooked pasta and a little pasta cooking water. Leftovers keep for up to 3 days.
2. Citrus Skillet Shrimp With Shallots and Jalapeños
Inspired by the bright, refreshing flavors of ceviche, this recipe takes advantage of an abundance of winter citrus to season pan-cooked shrimp, cooking it until tender and warm rather than curing it simply using salt and acidity and without the application of heat, as classic ceviches do. Shallots and jalapeños quickly bathe in orange and lime juice to cut the rawness and heat of each. You can substitute chopped scallions for the shallots, and white fish or scallops are easy stand-ins for shrimp. Best enjoyed with rice and a simple lettuce salad with avocado and a mustard vinaigrette, this vibrant, colorful dish can brighten up even the dreariest of cold days.
By Yasmin Fahr
Yield: 4 servings
Total time: 15 minutes
- 1 navel orange, zested and juiced (see tip)
- 2 limes, zested and juiced (see tip)
- 1 medium shallot, cut into thin rings
- 1 jalapeño, seeded and finely chopped
- 1/4 teaspoon ground cumin
- Kosher salt
- 1/2 packed cup fresh cilantro leaves and tender stems
- 1 1/2 pounds large peeled, deveined shrimp (tails on or off)
- 1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
1. In a small bowl, combine the orange and lime zest and juice with the shallot, jalapeño, cumin and 1/2 teaspoon salt; stir to combine. Roughly chop two-thirds of the cilantro and add it to the bowl; toss to combine, then set aside the citrus mixture.
2. Pat the shrimp dry. Season all over with salt and the paprika. Heat a 12-inch skillet over medium-high heat until hot. Add the oil, tilt the skillet to slick the bottom evenly, then spread the shrimp in an even layer. (It’s OK if they are a little snug.) Cook the shrimp, undisturbed, for 3 minutes, until just pink underneath. Turn the shrimp over and cook until the shrimp are fully pink all over, with no gray spots, 1 to 3 minutes more, depending on the size of the shrimp.
3. Remove from the heat onto an empty burner and immediately pour the citrus mixture into the skillet, gently tossing to coat the shrimp, about 1 minute. (The shrimp will continue to cook in the residual heat so you can undercook the shrimp by 30 seconds.) Lightly tear or chop the remaining cilantro, sprinkle on top and serve.
TIP: To maximize the amount of citrus juice without using (or cleaning) a press, insert a fork into an orange or lime half, and move it up and down like a lever while squeezing the citrus. Pulp is welcome.
3. Buttery Lemon Pasta With Almonds and Arugula
Brown butter, crunchy almonds and tangy lemon make a rich but balanced sauce for this pantry-friendly pasta. The arugula lends freshness and rounds out the pasta, turning this into a quick one-pot meal. If you want to increase the vegetables, you can double the arugula. (Just add a little more lemon juice.) And if you don’t have baby (or wild) arugula on hand, spinach or baby kale are fine, though slightly milder, substitutes. Don’t stint on the red-pepper flakes; their spiciness helps bring together the flavors.
By Melissa Clark
Yield: 4 to 6 servings
Total time: 25 minutes
- Fine salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 1 pound linguine or spaghetti
- 6 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 1 cup sliced almonds
- 2 fresh rosemary sprigs
- 1/4 teaspoon red-pepper flakes, plus more to taste
- 1/4 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice, plus more to taste
- 1 tablespoon finely grated lemon zest
- 4 to 5 ounces baby or wild arugula, coarsely chopped, or use baby kale or spinach (4 to 5 cups)
- Grated Parmesan, for serving
1. Bring a large pot of heavily salted water to a boil. Add pasta and cook until it is 1 minute shy of being al dente, usually a minute or 2 less than the package instructions. Scoop out about 1 1/2 cups pasta water, then drain pasta.
2. While the pasta cooks, in a large skillet or Dutch oven, melt butter over medium heat. Cook, swirling occasionally, until the foam subsides, the milk solids turn golden-brown and the butter smells nutty and toasty, 3 to 4 minutes. (Watch carefully to see that it doesn’t burn.)
3. Stir in almonds, rosemary and red-pepper flakes, and cook, stirring occasionally, until the nuts are toasted and slightly darker in color, about 1 minute.
4. Add about 1 cup pasta water to the skillet and bring to a simmer. Add lemon juice, zest, 1/2 teaspoon salt and a large pinch of black pepper, then add drained pasta and toss well. Add arugula, tossing until it wilts. Simmer for another minute, if needed, to thicken the sauce until it’s thick and glossy. If the mixture seems dry, add more pasta water 1 tablespoon at a time.
5. Taste and add more salt, red-pepper flakes and lemon juice, if needed. Serve topped with grated Parmesan and more red-pepper flakes, if you like.
4. Spicy Citrus Skirt Steak
You don’t need a meat thermometer to grill a great skirt steak: When cooked over high heat, the inside will be medium-rare once the steak is bronzed on the outside. For seasoning, counter the cut’s big buttery flavor with something salty, spicy or fresh. In this recipe, the grilled steak rests in a tart sauce of tangerine, soy sauce, ginger and vinegar that is reminiscent of ponzu, with hints of citrusy bitterness similar to the dried tangerine peel used in Sichuan and Hunan cooking. Here, that bittersweet edge comes from charring the fruit and peel. Serve with rice or a grilled green vegetable like Chinese broccoli or asparagus.
By Ali Slagle
Yield: 4 servings
Total time: 30 minutes, plus grill heating
- 1 1/2 pounds skirt steak (see tips)
- 8 tangerines, satsumas or mandarin oranges, washed and halved horizontally
- 6 tablespoons unseasoned rice wine vinegar
- 6 tablespoons low-sodium soy sauce
- 1 tablespoon sambal oelek or Sriracha, plus more as needed
- 1 (1-inch) piece ginger, peeled and finely grated (about 1 tablespoon)
- 1 garlic clove, finely grated
- Kosher salt and black pepper
- Neutral oil, such as grapeseed
1. Prepare a charcoal or gas grill for two-zone cooking over high heat: For a charcoal grill, pour the coals onto one half of the grill. For a gas grill, heat all the burners, then turn off one of the end burners. (See tips.)
2. While the grill is heating, pat the steak dry and cut into 5- to 6-inch pieces with the grain. (This makes it easier to fit on the grill.) Set aside to air-dry while you make the sauce: Squeeze 1 cup of juice from about 6 tangerines into a bowl or rimmed dish large enough to hold the steak after it’s grilled. (Set aside the remaining unjuiced halves on a sheet pan.) Add the spent tangerine halves to the juice. Smash the halves with a spoon to release the rind’s oils (as if you’re muddling a cocktail). To the juice and spent tangerine halves, add the rice vinegar, soy sauce, sambal oelek, ginger and garlic, and season with salt and pepper. Stir to combine.
3. When you’re ready to grill, add the steak to the sheet pan of unjuiced tangerine halves and lightly coat everything with neutral oil. Season generously with salt. Bring the sheet pan of tangerine halves and steak, sauce, a tightly folded paper towel soaked with oil, and tongs to the grill. Clean the grates with a grill brush, then oil the grates with the paper towel. Grill the steak over direct heat, flipping halfway through, until well browned, 2 to 3 minutes per side. Grill the tangerines over direct heat, flipping halfway through, until blackened, 4 to 5 minutes per side.
4. As the steak and tangerine halves finish, add them to the sauce and turn to coat. Squeeze the charred citrus with your tongs to release the juice and the peels into the dish. Let rest for at least 5 minutes and up to 30. Slice the steak against the grain and serve with the sauce. Season to taste with salt, pepper and sambal oelek.
You can dry-brine the steak in advance, which seasons the meat and locks in the juices. Pat the steak dry, season with 1 teaspoon salt, and refrigerate uncovered overnight. Let come to room temperature before cooking. (No need to season with salt again before grilling.)
High is above 450 degrees. You should be able to hold your hand 4 to 5 inches above the grates for 2 to 3 seconds.
5. Sheet-Pan Lemony Chicken With Brussels Sprouts
This is a true oven-to-table sheet-pan dinner full of tender, crunchy Brussels sprouts and crispy, lemony chicken. A simple lemon-and-herb compound butter seasons both the chicken and sprouts, which are then topped with thin lemon slices that become crunchy in the oven, offering a nice textural element and a bright splash of color and flavor. The key is to cut the lemon rounds almost paper-thin, so they can crisp up and lose their bitterness. This recipe is easily adjustable for a larger batch: Add 4 drumsticks (about 1 1/2 pounds) to the chicken thighs, increase the butter by 1 tablespoon and adjust seasonings as needed.
By Yasmin Fahr
Yield: 2 to 4 servings
Total time: 1 hour
- 3 tablespoons unsalted butter or ghee, at room temperature
- 2 lemons, both zested (about 2 tablespoons), 1 cut into very thin rounds and 1 halved, seeds removed
- 1/2 cup flat-leaf parsley leaves and tender stems, finely chopped
- Kosher salt and black pepper
- 3 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon olive oil
- 4 bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs (about 1 1/2 to 2 pounds)
- 1 1/2 pounds Brussels sprouts, trimmed and halved, tough outer leaves removed
- 1 small red onion, peeled, quartered and cut into 1-inch wedges
- 1/2 teaspoon red-pepper flakes
- 1/4 cup grated Parmesan
1. Heat the oven to 450 degrees, set one rack 6 inches from the broiler and place another rack in the lower third of the oven. In a large bowl, combine the butter, zest of both lemons, half the parsley and 1 teaspoon salt. Rub 1 teaspoon oil on a sheet pan. Pat the chicken dry, then transfer to the sheet pan and season well with salt and pepper. Reserve about 1 teaspoon of the compound butter in the bowl, then rub the rest all over the chicken and under the skin by lifting it up, pushing a tiny amount of compound butter underneath, then pressing on top. Arrange the chicken pieces skin-side up.
2. Add the Brussels sprouts, onion wedges, lemon rounds, red-pepper flakes and the remaining 3 tablespoons olive oil to the bowl with the compound butter; toss to coat. Season with salt and pepper. Arrange the Brussels sprouts mixture around the chicken, placing some lemon rounds on top of the vegetables.
3. Roast on the lower rack, 30 to 35 minutes, stirring the vegetables halfway through, until the chicken is crispy, the chicken juices run clear when the meat is pierced with a fork, and the Brussels sprouts are browned and crunchy. If the chicken skin is not as crispy as you’d like, transfer the vegetables to a serving platter, then place the chicken under the broiler for 1 to 3 minutes. Transfer the chicken to the serving platter.
4. Squeeze one of the lemon halves over the chicken and vegetables and cut the remaining lemon half into quarters. Garnish the chicken and vegetables with the cheese and the remaining parsley, and serve with the lemon wedges.
This article originally appeared in The New York Times.
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