At Voraciously, we are most interested in helping you stock your kitchen with the essentials you will use day in, day out for many years. That means not relying on overly specialized tools. But here’s the truth: A Microplane zester is the best, easiest and fastest gadget for zesting citrus. The good news is that you can snag one for less than $15, it will last a very long time and it does not take up much room in your overcrowded miscellaneous tool drawer. (We all have one of those, right?) A Microplane is also handy for grating other ingredients: cheese for pasta, fresh nutmeg for a heady baking spice and chocolate for a dessert garnish. When you zest an orange, or lemon or lime, try holding the fruit under the zester, with the rough, rasp side facing down. (Make sure you are only removing the outer layer of skin and not the bitter white pith underneath.) That way, the zest won’t scatter everywhere. Instead, you can just scrape the pile out of the channel of the Microplane once you’re done.
If you juice a lot of citrus and feel like getting a dedicated juicer, go for it. But you can also hack your way to fresh juice. With oranges, especially the seedless variety, I often just roll the fruit on its side on the counter (to loosen up its juices), cut it in half horizontally and squeeze with my hands, being sure to rotate the fruit horizontally a couple of times to make sure I’ve attacked it from all angles. But a closed set of tongs can function as a pretty good reamer when the scalloped end is inserted in the cut half of the fruit. Twist the tongs or the fruit, whichever you prefer. Even a fork can work in a pinch. Just have a big enough bowl underneath to catch all that juice you’ve worked (not) so hard for.
Orange segments are great in a variety of dishes. They are superb on top of a loaf cake or in a salad. To segment an orange, slice off the bottom and the top of the fruit. Stand the orange on a cutting board with one of the cut sides down. Use a serrated or paring knife to cut the peel and the pith away from the fruit in strips, top to bottom. Then, holding the fruit in your hand, cut the segments away from the membrane. (The idea is to leave behind all of the membrane and white pith.) Squeeze more juice from the membrane, if you need it.
Need a cool-looking drink garnish? (Bonus points if you’ve already used some zest and plan to use the juice or the segments of the orange.) Make a twist! First, cut off a wide piece of peel using a vegetable peeler or paring knife. Then cut a strip at the width of your choice — I found about 1/8 inch works quite nicely. Next, put your stash of takeout chopsticks to good use by wrapping the strip of peel around one of them. (A round pen or pencil will also do the trick.) Pull the strip tightly and hold it in place for a few seconds to form its shape. Slide the twist off and add to your favorite quaff.
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