If there’s one flavor to keep on hand this season, it’s citrus — grapefruits, lemons, oranges and other varieties of these juicy, sweet-tart fruits. Citrus fruits are at their best in the cold winter months, when their bright flavors and fragrant oils shine in everything from vinaigrettes, salads and sauces to preserves (and even cocktails)! Read on for our best tips for working with citrus, plus creative ways to use citrus fruits from the Williams-Sonoma Test Kitchen.
Look for: Choose fruits that feel firm and are heavy for their size, which is a sign of juiciness. Avoid ones with blemishes or soft spots. Most citrus fruits can be stored at room temperature for about a week or in the refrigerator for 3 to 4 weeks. They will be juicier and sweeter if brought to room temperature before serving.
Prep tips: For the most juice, bring citrus fruits to room temperature and roll them firmly against a hard surface. Then use a citrus reamer to extract the juice. A rasp grater is best for obtaining fine, aromatic shreds of lemon rind free of any pith, while a vegetable peeler is useful for creating wide ribbons of lemon zest. Use a sharp knife to cut the fruit into slices or wedges. See step-by-step photos for segmenting and zesting citrus.
Uses: Use their juice and zest to brighten soups, finish sauces, marinate meats, garnish vegetables and enhance drinks, as well as to flavor baked goods.
Variations: In winter and spring, look for Meyer lemons, a cross between a classic Eureka lemon and a mandarin orange. It has a rounder shape, yellow orange color, sweeter flavor and flowery fragrance that lends itself to a range of applications. Seek out blood oranges, too, for their gorgeous and distinctive red color and berry-like flavor. Satsuma mandarins and sweet, seedless mandarin oranges with a leathery skin that’s easy to peel; eat them out of hand for an easy snack. Finally, try pomelos, which are larger than grapefruits but can be used in all the same recipes.
Citrus Compote: Peel oranges, grapefruit and tangerines; cut into segments, reserving juice. Place segments in a bowl. Pour juice into a saucepan, add sugar to taste and heat to dissolve sugar. Let syrup cool, then stir into citrus segments. Sprinkle with slivered mint or basil. Serve over pancakes, waffles, pound cake or quick bread.
Citrus Salad with Shaved Fennel: Peel oranges, blood oranges and grapefruit; cut into thin rounds. Arrange on a plate. Top with shaved fennel and pitted Nicoise olives. Drizzle with olive oil; sprinkle lightly with sea salt and pepper.
Crab Salad with Grapefruit and Avocado: Whisk together grapefruit juice, Champagne vinegar, olive oil, salt and pepper. Toss torn butter lettuce with some of the vinaigrette; divide among individual plates. Top with fresh crabmeat, grapefruit segments and avocado slices. Drizzle with remaining vinaigrette; sprinkle with chopped chives and parsley.
Citrus Granita: In a saucepan, heat equal parts sugar and water; let syrup cool to room temperature. Mix 2 parts syrup with 1 part citrus juice (lime, lemon and orange). Adjust sweetness or tartness. Pour mixture into a square pan; place in freezer. Scrape with a fork every 30 to 60 minutes until frozen solid, about 2 1/2 hours.