When Life Gives you Limes
Once upon a time, in the glory days of the British navy, malnutrition was commonplace among the sailors. They would spend lengthy voyages at sea eating nothing but dried and salted meats or hard baked breads. Fresh anything was a fantasy to these poor sailors. It is no surprise that they became victims of an old fashioned disease called scurvy. The solution was proposed by a scottish doctor James Lind in 1747 who proved citrus juice is an effective treatment for this unfortunate illness. In the late 18th century the British navy began supplying their sailors with delicious and underrated limes.
The lime, not to be confused with any of its other citrus cousins, has a flavor unique to itself. The most commonly cultivated variety is the persian lime which is really a hybrid cross of a key lime and lemon. Other pure lime types that you may come across are kaffir lime, and australian limes. These are more challenging to find in the USA. Limes can be used in perfumes, drinks, marinades, salads and much more.
More bitter than a lemon, it is used in many cuisines around the world. It is a traditional ingredient across the Asian continent and majority of the Americas. It has been used for everything from medicines to an agent for curing meats.. Come and explore some common and less common uses of this fruit while it is in peak season. We will harness one of the most bitter citrus’ strengths and give our tables its extra punch.
One of the most misunderstood aspects of all citrus fruits are how versatile the separate parts of them can be to add flavor to cooking. Zest is bitter but strongly flavored, and a little bit goes a long way. Make sure you use a zester for any recipe that calls for citrus zest, as a peeler will leave you with too much of the “pith”, the white underside of the zest which is inedible and takes bitter herb to the next level. Citrus juice, on the other hand, is majority water, although it tastes rather sour to our palates. With a little addition of some other ingredients, such as sugar, onion, garlic, and salt, it can be transformed into a flavoring agent that will take all of your dishes to new heights. A great food hack: if you’re making a salad that calls for raw garlic or onion, soaking them in some citrus juice can soften up some of their raw “sharpness.” This works great if you’re using a lemon or lime vinaigrette.
Latin America: Traditional Red Snapper Ceviche
Snappers are caught all over the world and is a traditional choice for this preparation. Don’t like snapper? Replace with tuna or wild salmon. Make sure it is a fish that you would eat rare! This means ceviche is not meant for a fish like tilapia or cod. The fish is cured from the strong acidity in the lime juice. As it marinates the surface of the fish will appear to cook. That means it is perfect for eating and takes at least an hour to get to the perfect texture.
3/4 lb snapper fillets, skin off and medium dice
1 clove garlic, minced
1 medium red onion, small dice
½ cup minced cilantro, chopped
1 ½ tsp salt
1 jalapeno seeds and membrane removed, brunoise (really small dice)
1 tbs salad oil
¼ cup or a little more fresh squeezed lime juice
Avocado and Tomato are optional
Mix everything together. Let sit 1-2 hours in the refrigerator covered. When you add the lime juice you start the curing process that can not be stopped. Enjoy with corn or plantain chips. Garnish with lime wedge and your favorite hot sauce.
Southeast Asia - Thailand, Vietnam: Stir fry
In Southeast Asian cooking lime is used to balance dishes. Coconut milk adds a creamy richness and the lime brings intense acidity keeping the dish fresh.
1-1.5 lb chicken breast or 1 lb cooked noodles such as spaghetti
1 shallot, chopped
4 garlic cloves, minced
1 tsp dry ginger, minced
1 tsp crushed red chili
¼ lb sliced mushrooms
1 medium red bell pepper, julienne
1 cup thick slices of savoy or napa cabbage
Oil for sauteing
Water for cooking if needed
¾ cup coconut milk
2 tbs fresh lime juice
2 tbs soy sauce (3 for noodles)
1-3 tbs sugar (how sweet do you want it?)
1 tbs corn starch
Pre cut all the vegetables and mix together. Pre cut the chicken and leave separate. Mix together the sauce in a separate vessel. Preheat a heavy bottom saute pan, cast iron ...pan or traditional wok until very very hot! Drizzle in a little oil. It should smoke. Immediately add ⅓ of the vegetables and mix constantly for 1 minute. Add ⅓ of the chicken or pasta and cook for 1 ½ minutes. Agitate the sauce to distribute the cornstarch (it will sink to the bottom) and add about ⅓ of it to the stir fry. Once the sauce comes to a boil cook for 1-2 more minutes stirring constantly. Repeat for the remaining two batches. Serve with torn fresh basil, cut scallions, and lime wedges.
Carribean: Original Daiquiri or Lime Aid
A challenge of making your own specialty drinks is commonly the issue of dissolving the sugar. If you add sugar straight to the mix it will sink to the bottom of the pitcher resulting in an over sweetened final cup and an astringent majority. Make a simple syrup first (I make it in the same pitcher) and dilute it with remaining ingredients. A hot water urn is an underutilized piece of kitchen equipment to make this step even “simpler.”
¾ cup sugar
¾ cup boiling water
1 cup fresh squeezed lime juice
4 cups cold water
(Optional for adults only!)
¾ cup cuban style white rum for an original daiquiri
Mix sugar and boiling water until all the sugar is dissolved. Let sit a few minutes to cool to prevent over melting the ice. Add ice next to prevent splashing and finish with the remaining ingredients. Garnish with a lime wheel.
Lime buttery shortbread cookie
1 cup butter or plant butter
1 cup sugar
Zest of 2 limes
3 tbs lime juice
1 tsp vanilla
2 cup flour
.5 cup corn starch
1 cup powdered sugar (optional)
Cream butter, sugar, lime zest, and salt. Add half the flour, then lime juice, and vanilla then the remaining flour and cornstarch. Continue to mix for an additional two minutes. Let dough rest for 15-30 minutes. Roll out and bake in a preheated 350 F oven for 12-14 minutes. Once cool toss in powdered sugar, shake off excess and enjoy.