A yuzu tree in full blossom cast its fragrant spell on us this summer while we were barreling through a plant nursery looking to pick up something completely unrelated. The oils in the zest of this Japanese citron are a floral and fruity combination of mandarin orange, Meyer lemon, and grapefruit. In Japan during the winter solstice, it is common to find yuzu fruit floating in hot springs and public baths. Soaking in yuzu filled water is considered good luck and believed to ward off illness in the coming year. Led by thoughts of a decadent bath and figuring out how to incorporate yuzu in the kitchen, one of our more odd impulse purchases was transacted, and the tree made it home with us. Best smelling car ride ever.
Thankfully, an unusually sunny summer nurtured those heady blossoms to bring us an abundance of ripe fruit this month. As November downpours have begun, we brought in our harvest and started zesting to add some brightness to our meals during the shorter, darker days. Around this time of year, specialty citrus starts showing up in the grocery store. Hopefully yuzu will make its way to you. If not, play with a combination of Meyer lemon, orange and grapefruit zest for similar results.
Maybe you've sipped a cocktail blended with yuzu juice or dipped something tasty in a ponzu sauce, made of yuzu, soy and a few other Asian pantry staples. There are many ways to find happiness cooking with yuzu. Here are two recipes that work well when made side by side, yuzu kosho paste and yuzu miso dressing. One needs more zest, the other more juice, so you can use one bowl of fruit to maximize your efforts for both. (You will be impressed by the number of seeds when you cut open a yuzu. Expect 90% seeds to 10% juice!) This recipe for yuzu kosho is a simple yuzu-chili paste that can be added to just about any food to liven it up. Dare we say that it has an umami quality about it? A teaspoon over flank steak makes it sing or a couple of tablespoons mixed in with shrimp before you grill it will make your tastebuds dance.
We cut up a small pumpkin and tossed it with one tablespoon of coconut oil and two teaspoons of yuzu kosho before roasting it in a 375 degree oven. After about 20 minutes, once the flesh was easily pierced and the edges of the pumpkin began to brown, we knew it was ready. While we love the flavors of cinnamon, brown sugar and other holiday favorites, we're pacing ourselves so we don't burn out. Some folks wait until after the holidays to do a diet cleanse. We're pre-treating our palettes with citrus and spicy so we can enjoy the full effect of the turkey and its accoutrements next week.
The natural sweetness of pumpkin laced with a little bit of zing pairs well with steamed bitter greens like this broccoli raab that we tossed with yuzu miso dressing. The creamy citrus with a hint of sesame rounded out all the flavors we were looking for and made sure that none of our tastebuds were neglected. Yuzu miso dressing works on any greens, bitter or not. In fact, why stop at greens? We found that it worked great with orange vegetables too. We spooned a bit over our pumpkin and later tried it on shredded carrots to make a delicious salad.
Yuzu kosho (yuzu chili paste)
(yields 1/3 cup)
6 Thai chili peppers*
2 tsp kosher salt
Serrano or jalapeño peppers can take the place of Thai chilis, but please note that the substitutions are a bit hotter in flavor.
A combination of Meyer lemon, orange and grapefruit zest can stand in for yuzu.
Thoroughly wash and dry peppers and yuzu. Wearing rubber gloves, cut off the pepper stems, split the peppers open and scrape the seeds out. Discard the seeds. Chop up the peppers.
Using a Microplane zester, remove the zest from the yuzu.
Combine peppers, yuzu zest and salt in a food processor or mortar. Process or grind to a rough paste. It’s ready for use.
Any unused portion can be stored in the refrigerator for up to two weeks or in the freezer for several months.
Yuzu miso dressing
(Yields 1/2 cup)
2 Tbsp white miso*
1 Tbsp rice vinegar
1 tsp toasted sesame oil
1/4 olive oil
*can be found in the refrigerated section of the grocery store near the tofu
Using a Microplane zester, zest 3 yuzu into a small bowl (for about 1 tsp zest. Then, juice all 6 yuzu, adding 2 tablespoons to the zest.
Add miso, vinegar and sesame oil to the bowl. Slowly whisk in olive oil.