Thursday, July 17, 2008

What is the deal with zest?

I see it in nearly every recipe. Rachael Ray talks about it like it's the second coming! I mean really, it's peel people. Something that, until recently, was relegated to the garbage can in most kitchens. I feel like I'm going against major food-lovers code here by saying this, but I am just not a big fan.
I get that all the so-called essential oils are contained there. I get that the peel is where all the flavor is, but sometimes it's just so perfumey it really turns me off. The one "zest" that I do sometimes give in to using is lemon zest. In small amounts, and I'm talking 1/2 teaspoon or less here, it's tolerable. Mostly I will breakdown if a dessert recipe calls for zest. Otherwise, just the juice for me please!
Orange zest has got to be the worse. One time I ruined a perfectly good piece of grilled tuna by marinating it in orange zest, oil, chopped rosemary and salt and pepper. Again, I blame the zest queen Rachael Ray - her idea. The orange peel flavor TOOK OVER the fish like a culinary coup d'etat! I might as well have grated orange Starbursts over my food and tried to eat it. Not good.
I think the worst experience I ever had with orange peel was in elementary school on the school bus (where else do you have some of your worst experiences? Or maybe that was just me). Anyway, one of my fellow classmates, who was of Chinese background, was having an afternoon snack and myself being a relentless food moocher on the afternoon school bus home, inquired about what she was eating. It was wrapped in cellophane with red Chinese writing on it and looked like burnt potato chips. Instead of telling me what it was, she just handed me a shriveled slab and said here try it. I did and nearly lost my lunch. It was dried orange peel pieces. They were so bitter and had such a strong sulfur flavor I couldn't believe she was eating these things voluntarily.
Maybe that's why I have such an aversion to zest. It brings back memories of my long, ardous school bus ride home. But either way, I will most likely be omitting it. Meanwhile, I may have to find a new use for my microplane. Pedicure, anyone?


KMAYS said...

Zest is one of those things that sort of intimidates me, and this post doesn't make me feel any better! I just don't usually feel like buying a whole lemon or whatever just for the zest.

Lisa said...

LOL sorry didn't want to make matters worse!! At least you can feel good that you didn't buy a kitchen tool just for zesting, ie microplane and hardly ever use it. Oh well, non-zesters unite!

Kinnery2 said...

The fruit trifle my mom and I made had orange zest in it - could you taste it?? :)

Lisa said...

Yes - I just ate the fruit actually and not the cake. I tasted it more in the cake part.