There are a few items in any kitchen that are absolutely indispensible. Think olive oil, salt and garlic – who can cook without them? And fresh lemons are right at the top of my list of must-have ingredients. I’ll admit that I cannot cook without lemons… and no, I don’t juice them ahead of time. Their floral aroma and bright acidity fade quickly if you do.
Although lemons are prized for their beautiful juice, their skin is even more aromatic. Indeed, the outer layer of the lemon peel (the flavedo or zest) is packed with aromatic oil glands that deliver quite a punch.
Not all zesting techniques are created equal…
The zest can be grated with a microplane grater when used in salad dressings, sauces or desserts. You can also use a “zester,” which is a nifty little tool with small holes in it that will give you bits of zest. But for many applications, it’s best to julienne the lemon zest with a chef’s knife, cutting it in super-thin strips. This method gives you sturdier slices and allows you to be more creative with your zest. You can roast the slices in the oven (like for this pizza), sauté them with vegetables or use them as a marinade. They hold their shape and deliver more flavor. The possibilities are endless!
Follow these tips, and the julienne cut will be the easiest part!
To learn how to julienne lemon zest to perfection, watch the video below. I’ll show you a couple of tricks, like choosing firm lemons and making sure not to peel any of the bitter pith (the white inner skin). These tips make all the difference, and let you experience the full beauty of lemons – inside and out.
How to julienne lemon zest
makes 1/3 cup
active time: 5 min
- 1 large, firm lemon
- very sharp chef’s knife
- Peel the lemon lengthwise with a vegetable hand-peeler in 2″ to 3″ strips. (Make sure not to put too much pressure on the peeler. You want to peel only the zest and not the white pith, which is quite bitter.) Then cut each strip lengthwise in 1/16″ slices. You should have about 1/3 cup loosely packed julienned lemon slices. Use the slices right away or place them in a sealed container and refrigerate for up to 1 day.
- It’s best to use the julienned lemon slices as soon as you’ve cut them, because they quickly lose their flavor when stored.