When you think of delicious fruit dishes, your mind may immediately transport to summer, when berries are ripe, sweet, and perfect for topping shortcakes, sprinkling into salads, and muddling into a cocktail or two. But there is a produce hero for winter that you may be overlooking — and it could be in your own backyard (literally). This season is prime time for lemons, oranges, grapefruits, and limes, which means there's no better moment to try out some seriously tasty citrus fruit recipes.
Think of citrus as the pumpkin of winter, in that it can be used to flavor a wide variety of dishes — and cocktails, of course. Because these fruits thrive in winter, not only are they more readily available (in fact, some parts of the world are lucky enough to have trees growing in proximity of picking), they're also the most flavorful. Additionally, their inherent tartness (though during this season they're the sweetest) makes them great for salad dressings, marinades for meat and seafood, and desserts. So basically you can design your whole dinner menu around them.
Ready to put this seasonal produce to delicious use? Ahead find a few recipes that use citrus as a star ingredient. And while they're pretty simple to make, if all else fails, you can always just make margaritas.
Grapefruit Ginger Spritz
Love Palomas and Greyhounds? This cocktail, designed by the mixologists from Ketel One, similarly centers around the flavor of juicy grapefruits, but has some interesting herbaceous twists. To make this spritz, use a citrus-flavored vodka, like Ketel's Botanical Grapefruit & Rose (which also offers a slight floral essence), with a splash of ginger kombucha, and a dash of cardamom-flavored bitters. Serve over ice and garnish with a slice of grapefruit.
Preserved Meyer Lemon
Preserving lemons requires a bit of prep, but you'd be surprised at how many things you can use them for (pastas, pizzas, rice bowls, and even your morning avocado toast, to name just a few), which is probably why Chef Galen Duckles from barcito in downtown Los Angeles loves to make use of the bounty of winter citrus this way. And if you can't get your hands on Meyers, regular lemons work just as well. "Simply quarter lemons down to a half inch, sprinkle heavily with kosher salt, and reshape," he instructs. "Place a small layer of salt in a sterile mason jar and pack in salted lemons with layers of salt in between, making sure to pack lemons down, then cover with fresh squeezed lemon juice leaving a small air gap. Leave in a warm place, shaking once a day for 30 days." When you're ready to use them, just remove the pulp and rinse off excess salt.
Chicory & Citrus Salad
This winter produce is tasty addition to any salad, but chefs always seem to go back to one no-fail formula: Citrus and chicory, as in bitter lettuces like endive, escarole, frisee, and radicchio. For Kaleo Adams, Executive Chef of Calabra in Santa Monica's Proper Hotel, adding goat cheese and walnuts makes this classic combo really shine. "I love this salad because the different textures and flavors of each ingredient really come to play," he says. "The goat cheese will provide some creaminess and saltiness to help balance the salad out, and the walnuts provide a great texture and some crunch. You can even use some of the citrus juice as the base for your dressing, and then don’t forget to top off the salad with fresh herbs and the citrus rind!" And Ana Ortiz, chef and caterer of Day Into Night in New York, likes her citrus and bitter greens salad with thinly sliced raw fennel and Castelvetrano olives for a slightly different profile.
For the endive salad at Jaleo in the Cosmopolitan Las Vegas, head chef Luis Montesinos balances the sweet, tart, and bitter flavors with a bit of garlic in the dressing. “The sweetness of the clementines complements the sharpness of the endive and the creaminess of the goat cheese, topped with almonds for crunch and a tangy roasted garlic dressing," he says. "It is the perfect bite!”
Lemon Roasted Chicken
Don't forget about dinner: Chicken and lemon is a classic and comforting combination, and it's actually pretty simple to make. For an absolutely perfect roast chicken dish that really highlights the flavor of the citrus, try this version from Food52.
Lemon Meringue Pie
Considering she authored the cookbook Dappled: Baking Recipes for Fruit Lovers, chef Nicole Rucker isn't one to let the plethora of winter citrus go to waste. Her favorite way to use it? A classic lemon meringue pie — with a twist. "Today I mixed lemon juice with tangerine juice from my backyard for the filling," she says. To make one her way, follow the recipe for her lemon chess pie, bake and top with meringue from the cookie section, then bake again.
If a pie seems too ambitious, you can always adapt her lemon-tangerine combo for some bars instead. Just keep in mind her recommended 3:1 lemon-to-sweeter-citrus juice ratio.