Lemons and Limes – Pucker Up Baby!
There are a few items I routinely grab when going to the grocery store; onions, garlic, lemons and limes. It is extremely rare that you will not find these in my kitchen, or in my ice chest headed to a client’s home. I use the lemons and limes to balance flavors. When trying to balance the flavor profile in a dish, one must frequently consider how to balance other flavor and mouth-feel components of fats. When dishes are rich and heavy, fat is usually involved somehow. One way to soften or lesson the fat portion of the taste experience is to add some acid.
This balancing act is typically accomplished using vinegars, dry wine, tomatoes, etc. but often I like to use lemons or limes. Using these citrus-based acids can bring a new dimension to the dish. But let’s not forget the rinds. Simply adding a little zest (the outside surface of the skin of the fruit) with the juice will also add tremendous flavor.
Take for example, the humble BLT or BALT (my favorite – bacon, avocado, lettuce and tomato) sandwich. These sandwiches typically have significant amounts of fat. These include the star of the sandwich (and my favorite meat) BACON and mayonnaise, sometimes avocado and Swiss cheese for a down-right decadent sandwich. With all that fat, you need something that will temper the fatty mouth-feel as well as add more flavor. Enter the tomato…tomatoes can have a significant amount of acid depending on when and how they were harvested. One layer of tomato slices is enough to balance all of the fats in rest of the sandwich. It’s simply amazing, and it doesn’t take much.
One important key to remember is, if elevated cooking temperatures are involved, such as simmering or braising, add your acids near the end of the cooking process. Acids are not stable at higher cooking temperatures and break down quickly. But don’t worry, the sky will not fall down; you can always add a little more at the end of the cooking cycle.
Some produce (apples, pears, bananas, peaches, and potatoes) contain an enzyme that reacts with oxygen. This reaction caused the surface of the fruit to turn brown if the fruit is cut or bruised. This damages the cells in the fruit, allowing oxygen in the air to react with the enzyme and other chemicals. One way to lessen the “rusting” is to lower the pH using an acid. This is typically accomplished using acetic acid in commercially produced products, and lemons, lime and vinegars in the home. Many apple pie recipes add lemon to the filling to help minimize browning before baking, as well as provide another subtle flavoring component.
Another favorite food of mine is guacamole, but the surface of avocado and guacamole can turn brown very quickly. I use the lime juice and plastic wrap to keep the oxygen away from the mole, as well as mixing a little into the guacamole when making it. After I smooth out the surface of the guacamole and before it goes into the frig, I squeeze a little lime over the top surface then cover it with the plastic wrap. I do not cover the bowl, I actually cover the guacamole itself, placing the wrap directly against the top surface of the guacamole itself. Another thing to do that will retard the oxidation is to not over mix, whipping air into the guacamole. Thankfully, lime and avocado make wonderful companions. They play together nicely in your mouth.
Check out http://www.thymeforachef.com/resources/flavorlayering_compcon.html to see how to use lemons when eating steak with red wine. You will see how a few drops of lemon can have a huge impact on your dining experience. You will also find other acid/fats balancing ideas.
Here is a rich and delightful Gluten-free salad dressing; it is easy and quick to make and delicious.
3 green onions, roughly chopped
1/2 avocado, peeled and pitted
1/2 cup orange juice
1 tablespoon lime juice
1/8 teaspoon sea salt
1/8 teaspoon ground black pepper
1. Halve the avocados, remove the pit and toss the flesh into a food processor along with the other ingredients.
2. Process until smooth.
3. Yer done! I told you it was quick and easy!
Thyme for a Chef offers a wide variety of culinary options for people who enjoy fine dining or want to learn how to prepare food for fine dining.
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Until next week, stay well and be blessed,
Chef David Hall
Thyme for a Chef, LLC