Cooking at home is not just cheaper and safer than eating out or ordering in, it’s also definitely a healthier lifestyle choice. Preparing food needn’t be an elaborate affair. Just a few of our simple strategies can help you crack the toughest recipes. We bring you a series of articles with tips and tricks for the kitchen, so you can learn how to cook like a pro, and avoid the mistakes that haunt rookies and seasoned chefs, alike.

Citrus fruits can be consumed in various ways: eaten fresh as they are, squeezed for their juice, peeled and grated for their fragrant zest, cut into sections that are added to dishes and beverages, and even made into jams and marmalade, pickled or preserved whole. Bursting with vitamin C and flavonoids, these fruits are healthy to consume and are good for strengthening the body, hair, nails and the skin. Limes, lemons, oranges, tangerines, nectarines, clementines, grapefruit and kumquats, citrus fruits feature in plenty of dishes and beverages, from baked foods, curries, stews, salads, barbecues, and desserts like key lime or lemon meringue pie, as well as every delicious drink starting with basic lemonade.

But you need to know how to use these fruits well, to maximize their flavor and aroma, while harnessing their sourness and bitterness, and minimizing the chances of their acidic nature negatively affecting your dishes.

Read on for suggestions on the tools, techniques and ingredients needed to whip up a batch of picture-perfect and healthy dishes featuring citrus:

Tools:

  • Discard seeds because they are very bitter and unpleasant to chomp down on, in food. The white pith that lies under the skin should also be avoided while grating and peeling the zest. Use either a good sharp grater or lemon zester, or better yet, learn how to carefully handle a paring knife to create a ribbon from the peel, best used as an impressive and pretty garnish for drinks.

Techniques:

  • Go All Out: While peeling, grating and juicing are all good techniques to use citrus in your cooking, sometimes using the whole fruit makes a dramatic impact. So try topping your baked fish with a few thick slices, grill a chicken or vegetables like squash stuffed with halved lemons or oranges, or better yet, roast the whole fruit and use its softened, mellowed sweetness in sauces, stews, salads or dessert.
  • Testy Zest: If you’re grating or peeling the rind for the zest, do it just before you need to use it and no sooner—unless you want the oils to evaporate, creating a lovely potpourri effect, but leaving nothing behind worth tasting in the zest.
  • Stay Fresh: Cooking with citrus is tricky. While using sections of the whole fruit during longer processes like baking, roasting, grilling and stewing is fine, never add the juice to a dish that’s still cooking, especially a sauce. You will end up with a discolored, funky tasting, and possibly bitter outcome. Always stir in the juice only after the dish is off the heat—just before serving.

Ingredients:

  • Daring With Dairy: While a splash of citrus juice can brighten and lighten a creamy sauce, be careful about when and how much you add. Use too much, too early in the cooking process and the dairy will curdle. However, you can get this same principle to work in your favor by making fresh cheese at home like a soft ricotta, or some cottage cheese.
  • Mix & Match: Lemon juice is perfect for vinaigrette, but is much more enjoyable when paired with another acid like balsamic, rice wine, red wine, apple cider or distilled white vinegar. The contrast of the sourness and sweetness makes for an excellent flavor profile, but make sure you taste the combination before using, to avoid taste clashes.
  • Stock Up: Since they are so versatile and prolific, try to always keep some amount of citrus fruit at home. They keep for a while and last even longer if refrigerated. Preserved whole fruit, candied peel and bottled juice are some items that last a long time, and can easily transform a dish from boring to bonanza.

Head to our Food section for healthy recipes and the latest food trends.
Quick and easy 
Nutrition tips here.

Read More:
Citrus Loving For A Healthy Winter
Citric Acid: Benefits, Uses & Side Effects

Simona is a journalist who has worked with several leading publications in India over the last 17 years, writing on lifestyle topics and the arts, besides interviewing celebrities. She made the switch to public relations and headed the division as PR Manager at ITC Hotels’ flagship property, the ITC Grand Chola, but has since returned to her first love, journalism. Now she writes on food, which she is sincerely passionate about and wellness, which she finds fascinating and full of surprises. When she isn’t writing, she is busy playing the role of co-founder and communications director of The Bicycle Project, a six-year-old charity initiative that empowers tribal children in rural areas, while addressing the issue of urban waste.