Zest is the outer skin of a citrus fruit usually an orange or lemon. The rich peel of the fruit is occasionally added to a number of food products in order to enhance the flavors. The term ‘zest’ means to flavor but it has been confined to the flavoring of food products with an orange zest or lemon zest usually. The skin of the lime is also grated and used as a zest occasionally. The skins of the citrus fruits consists of two distinct parts namely the flavedo and pith. Both the orange zest as well as the lemon zest is prepared from the former although the ratio of the two components varies substantially in both types of the fruit. The fruit zest thus prepared can be used in a freshly made form or stored for future use after they have been dried, candied or pickled. The process of extracting the zest from the fruit is known as zesting. The preparation of orange zest and lemon zest is quite similar. Grating the peel off the fruit is an acceptable way of zesting while some chefs prefer to take out the zest in long strips which are then used for decorating the desserts. A paring knife or a vegetable peeler is the only implement needed to zest a fruit properly.
History Of Zests
Zests particularly the orange zest and lemon zest have been used to enhance the flavor of food items since ancient times. The word is believed to have come from zeste in French which was first used in 1690 to denote an orange or a lemon peel. Zest was defined as an ingredient that imparts flavor in 1709 while the other meanings not related to food were coined even later.
Culinary Uses Of Zest
The zests are used to flavor a variety of dishes both sweet as well as savory. While the orange zest is traditionally used in desserts and confections, it is the lime and lemon zest that have a more extensive use. The most popular dishes which contain the citrus fruit peels are:-
• Used to flavor pastries, chocolates and pies.
• Used in relishes and condiments like marmalades, sauces, sherbets and salads.
• Used to flavor exotic rice based dishes and the notable ossobuco alla Milanese.
• Pickles make use of the lemon zest predominantly although the orange zest can be used in a variety of chutneys.
• Alcoholic and non alcoholic cocktails often include the zest of a lemon or orange as well as do some of the popular liqueurs.
• Mulled wine is flavored with fresh orange zest as well as the lemon zest which is cut away from the fruit in strips.
• Long strips of zest are used to adorn puddings and cakes.
Popular Zest Recipes
Addition of fruits or fruit zest enlivens the taste of the recipes be it desserts or savory main dishes. Some of the most popular recipes that are flavored with the zest include:-
• Tuna- Seared Tuna seasoned with sesame seeds and orange zest.
• Risotto- Italian dish cooked with mushrooms and flavored with the tangy lemon zest.
• Lemon Curd- Uses both the juice as well as the zest from the citrus fruit.
• Iced Orange Cookies- Cookies baked with grated peel of orange.
• Danish Pastry- Lime curd flavored with freshly grated lemon peel is spread on the layers of the Danish pastry.
Nutritional Value Of Zests
The zest obtained from a citrus fruit is enormously rich in Vitamins C and B6 and contains almost no sodium. The quantities of saturated fats are low too which makes it a healthy alternative to fruit juices as the later does not contain any dietary fiber.
Buying And Storing Zests
The zest of a citrus fruit is easily available at grocery stores and supermarkets. They can also be bought online now.
• Freshly made zests can be dried at home by exposing it to air until the peels turn brittle and lose color.
• Zests that are bought from commercial establishments need to be kept refrigerated especially after the packet or container is opened.
• Zests can also be candied together with the pulp from the fruit by submerging them into a hot sugary syrup. The candied form of the fruit peels can be stored in air tight containers for a long period of time.
Non Culinary Uses Of Zests
The zest from both oranges and lemon are astringents which makes them valuable as beauty products too. The zests can also be used to remove stubborn stains from clothes and help in getting rid of malodors.
The flavedo of the peel is used to make essential oils from the citrus fruits. The lemon essential oil is also one of the main ingredients present in the lemon drop.
The essential oils derived from the zest of an orange can help in curing indigestion.