Pucker up for a review of a new cookbook featuring citrus recipes.
The cookbook: Citrus: Sweet & Savory Sun-Kissed Recipes
The author: Valerie Aikman-Smith and Victoria Pearson are the dream team of cookbook creation. Valerie plays the role of chef, author and food stylist, while Victoria is the famed food photographer. Her beautiful photos have also appears in Crate & Barrel, Food & Wine magazine, Gourmet magazine, Martha Stewart Living and Pottery Barn, to name a few. Valerie got her start in the food industry as a cook at Greens Restaurant in San Francisco before applying her chef skills to food styling and writing. She has also authored Salt, Smoke & Spice; Juicy Drinks; Pickled & Packed; and Cooking in Cast Iron.
Initial impressions: Well, this one wasn’t a tough sell for me, being a superfan of all things lemon, lime, grapefruit and orange. What is it about citrus that just makes you feel clean? Perhaps it’s because so many home and body cleansing products are citrus scented. Perhaps it's the acidity of citrus that wipes the palate, like a sponge cleaning a slate. But I really can’t think of a better word to describe this book: clean. The propping of the photography is simple—most recipes are shot on white marble or pure white linen surfaces. And the food styling has a beautiful simplicity to it. You get the feeling that every recipe in this book could be served at a high-end spa.
What's cool: At the beginning of the book, you get some great tips on citrus basics: how to buy, store, zest, juice, peel and segment the stuff. [Side note from experience: Segmenting an orange or grapefruit can be either tres satisfying or super annoying, so it’s worth the effort to learn how to do it correctly.]
I’m enamored with the full-spread photographs that open each chapter of the book, which is divided by types of citrus fruits. Bounties of freshly dewed, leaves-still-on lemons and limes cause me to pause, pucker and smack my lips for the flavorful recipes that follow. But before that, you get a quick lesson in the versatility and types of each fruit.
Lemons, for example, are great for a home remedy known as the hot toddy (whiskey, honey, water and lemon juice), guaranteed to make you feel better from any ailment. And, if you’re feeling just fine, use lemons instead to clean silverware or remove stains from clothing, or to disinfect and refresh your garbage disposal. In this handy chapter intro, I also learned that the thin-skinned Meyer lemon is a cross between a lemon and an orange or a mandarin (its paternity remains unsettled). It’s the Meyer lemon you want to chose for drinks, sorbets, ice creams, sauces and syrups. But the lemons you’ll find most often and sold year-round are the ubiquitous Eureka lemon, which have a thick skin and pleasantly tart flavor, ideal for squeezing over fish and using in a variety of sweet and savory recipes.
In addition to being clean and spa-worthy, the recipes in this book are quite simple. Short ingredient lists and directions leave plenty of white space on the pages that give the whole experience a (you guessed it) clean feeling. The presentation has me feeling as though recipes like Blueberry Ricotta Pancakes with Lemon Cream and Valencia Orange Bread & Butter Pudding only sound fancy. The variety runs the gamut from appetizers, marmalades and homemade limoncello to main dishes, salads and desserts of all types. I don’t see a single one that I wouldn’t want to attempt. A few things I wish the book included, however, are nutrition information, serving sizes and labels for special diets (e.g. gluten free and vegetarian).
Perfect for: Citrus lovers / Bakers / Entertainers / Spa owners / Gift givers (many recipes were of the food-gift type) / Foodies
When/Where to get it: This August 2015 release is useful any time of the year, but I suggest buying it now so you can make the most of this glorious citrus season (December to April). It's currently $16 on Amazon.com.
Sneak-peek recipe: Sink your teeth into peppery, citrusy Szechuan Shrimp & Ruby Grapefruit Salad (pictured below, and reprinted with permission from the publisher, Ten Speed Press, an imprint of Penguin Random House LLC. Photographs copyright © 2015 by Victoria Pearson).