A Fine and Zesty Ingredient
Citrus zest is one of the finest ingredients there is, because it brightens every flavor it touches. The zest of an orange evokes cozy, winter memories; lemon zest takes the place of sun on a grey fall day; bergamot zest blossoms with mystery, and lime zest makes us voyage to tropical climes. I can’t get enough of citrus zest in sweet, and savory, dishes.
Mais Oui! A Zester
My favorite tool for removing zest from citrus is a…zester. It’s a small, sturdy tool with a straight metal end that has holes in it with sharp edges. Comb it down the side of any citrus you find, and out of those holes come perfect strips of zest, without any bitter white pith at all.
Microplane – is it the Answer
The zester had pride of place in well-equipped kitchens until the late 1990’s when the microplane burst onto the scene. The story of how is actually a lovely one. The microplane was invented by two metalworking brothers in Arkansas who had lots of sharp metal hanging around their shop. Fingers to brow, they wondered if they could turn that sharpness to good use. Through trial and error they came up with a process called “photo etching” which makes holes in metal. The holes have razor sharp edges which were ideal for planing rough edges from wood. That is how they were used until a homemaker in Canada tried one (from her husband’s shop) on an orange and, as they say, the rest is history. Microplanes are now fixtures in the kitchen, making tender little curls of zest that go everywhere, all the time.
No Tender Curls
And I personally don’t like them. Those tender curls, I mean. (I applaud the success of the microplane – who wouldn’t? It’s a fairy tale.). The zest curls are foamy little wetnesses with no real, heightened flavor or texture. And there’s the thorny issue of getting the zest out of the microplane, because it wants to stick, so you lose a lot of it. And while that damp zest may add flavor – of course it does, a little – there’s no verve or excitement that you get when your teeth hit an actual piece of zest and it pops with flavor.
With a Zester, Think Wow!
Think crumble, banana bread, cakes, cookies, souffles and the sheer joy of biting into even a miniscule piece and getting that “Wow!”
So my microplane, a gift, sits lonely and unused in my drawer. I’ve tried to love what it does, but from chocolate to citrus zest to cheese, I am always left with “foam” rather than texture which clings to everything but where I want it, and is just a mess.
Give me a zester any old day, for the kind of zest that makes you – and anything it touches – truly zesty!