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Not So Secret Ingredients - Cooking tips with Katie Dee

posted: August 4, 2007

Lemon & Lime

Adding lemon or lime to a recipe can really brighten up a dish and help to accentuate other flavours. The zest* of the fruit has the most concentration of citrus flavour and can be used alone or in combination with the juice.

*Zest: Finely grate only the outer, coloured part of the lemon or lime's peel - the white part is more bitter in taste.

When to add lemon or lime

-When making mashed potatoes, squeezing the juice from a whole lemon into the boiling water adds a lot of depth to the flavours and is especially nice when garlic is added to the mash.

-Adding a little lemon zest or lemon extract to a cookie recipe is delicious - often people notice the brightness of flavour but don't realise that it's the lemon. Great in chocolate chip cookies!

-Grating a touch of lemon zest into a simple cream sauce before serving can add a lot of interest to the sauce.

-Try serving grilled asparagus with a small dollop of creme fraiche or sour cream, then sprinkle fresh lemon zest on top.

-Lime pairs nicely with coconut milk, ginger, cilantro and hot spices. Check out the sauce in my Thai Shrimp recipe.

-Lime or lemon is great in marinades for poultry, shrimp or fish, but don't marinate the fish for too long unless you want to make Ceviche*.

*Ceviche (ce-vi-che) is a dish prepared by marinating fish in citrus with olive oil and spices for a few hours or overnight - when the acid of the citrus comes in contact with the fish, the flesh becomes opaque and firm, similar to how it is when it's cooked. Ceviche is very good and is often served as an appetizer.

Did you know? ...

Mayonnaise often contains lemon, which is what gives it that 'zing'. Some people add it to their mashed potatoes.

Salt & Sugar

I go by the simple rule of adding a little sugar to most savory dishes and adding a little salt to most sweet dishes. Doing this adds a bit of contrast in flavours which makes the key flavours stand out. Contrast is more important than many people realise - without contrast, everything would be grey and boring. I sometimes use splenda or other sweeteners as substitutes for sugar.

When to add salt or sugar

-As you probably know, salt is usually one of the ingredients in making baked goods; especially cookies. I often add a touch more than the recipe calls for and I love the results!

-Adding sugar to a pasta sauce can really round out the flavours and works well with cream sauces.

-You can make a delicious and simple vinaigrette with olive oil, lemon juice, pepper, salt and sugar. Add freshly grated ginger for a bit of kick.

-Make a salad more interesting! Toss some mixed greens with a simple vinaigrette then add shavings of parmesan or romano along with some sugared pecans*. The sharp and salty cheese contrasts so nicely against the sweet peacans. You could even add some sliced pears and chicken breast and you have yourself a meal!

*Sugared pecans: place raw pecans in a dry frying pan on medium high heat - the natural oils will start to come out. Keep your eye on the pecans and toss when needed. When you begin to smell them cooking, remove from heat and toss them in a bowl with just enough sugar to coat. Allow to cool a while and be careful, they can get VERY hot!

Did you know? ...

Many products in the grocery store contain sugar, fructose or glucose when you might not expect them to. This is often the case with products like tomato sauce, cream cheese and soup.

I am not a chef and I have no formal training, I just love to cook and enjoy sharing my passion with others.

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