Jewish World Review Feb. 4, 2003 / 2 Adar I, 5763

Try citrus, not fat, for flavor in your cooking

By Bev Bennett | If "no'' is the operative word in your diet regimen, it's a relief to find foods you can eat with abandon. And you can say "yes'' to citrus fruits -- oranges, grapefruit, tangerines, lemons and limes -- that are low in fat and calories, highly nutritious and deliver great taste.

"Citrus has all the things you want to fit into a weight-loss diet,'' says Gail Rampersaud, a registered dietitian and an assistant professor in nutrition research at the University of Florida at Gainesville.

"If you're losing weight, you don't want to sacrifice nutrients for weight loss. Citrus fruits are high in vitamin C. Oranges are a good source of folate, which helps prevent birth defects and may reduce your risk of heart disease and perhaps colon cancer.''

In addition, she says, citrus fruits deliver nutrition without making a serious dent in your caloric allowance. A medium orange is fat-free, with about 65 calories; a tangerine contains 37 calories, the same measure as half a grapefruit. How about adding a squirt of lemon or lime to your cooking? A tablespoon of lemon juice or lime juice weighs in at just 4 calories.

An orange --the citrus fruit you're most likely to eat -- has distinct advantages. First, just the act of eating an orange takes time. You've got to peel and segment the fruit, and this slows you down so you don't overeat. Oranges also contain 3-4 grams of dietary fiber, which provide satiety so you eat less, according to Rampersaud

But citrus fruits are more than a beneficial snack. You can use various citrus fruits as an alternative to fat to add flavor to food.

"Citrus is wonderful. It brightens the taste of food,'' says chef Allen Susser of Chef Allen's in Miami. "Every part of citrus but the pith can be used in cooking.'' He coats tuna steaks with a combination of spices and tangerine zest., and he uses the juice of oven-roasted lemons in his dishes. "Oven roasting gives lemon juice a more mellow taste,'' he explains.

And he incorporates citrus in everything from appetizer through dessert as his cookbook "Citrus!'' (Ten Speed Press, 1997) will attest.

If you'd like to exchange fat for sprightly flavor in your winter cooking, follow Susser's recipes. The black bean hummus below is adapted from "Citrus!''

A note: To get the zest of a citrus fruit, wash the fruit under cold water to remove any wax or residue. Pat dry. Scrape just the colored part of the peel. The white pith is bitter.

If you are using the juice of a citrus fruit, remove the zest for another dish. Wrap the zest in plastic wrap, and refrigerate up to two days.

To roast a lemon, brush it lightly with olive or vegetable oil. Wrap it loosely in aluminum foil, and place in a preheated 325-degree oven about one hour, or until the fruit is very soft.


1 1/2 teaspoons cumin seeds

1/2 teaspoon black peppercorns

1/2 teaspoon fennel seeds

2 medium tangerines

1/2 teaspoon dried, crushed thyme

1 teaspoon kosher salt

4 (6-ounce) tuna steaks

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 teaspoon minced fresh garlic

1 tablespoon freshly chopped flat leaf parsley

For the spice rub, combine the cumin seeds, peppercorns and fennel seeds in small, heavy-bottomed pan. Cook over low heat for 2 to 3 minutes, or until the seeds become aromatic. Remove from heat and cool completely. Grind to a rough, coarse texture in a spice grinder. Remove the zest from the tangerines, and combine with the cumin blend, and thyme and salt. Squeeze the tangerines, and reserve the juice.

Rub the tangerine mixture on both sides of the tuna steaks to coat. Heat olive oil in a medium saute pan over high heat. Add the tuna steaks just before the oil starts to smoke. Sear them lightly on the first side. Add garlic. Reduce the heat and continue to cook for 2 minutes on each side, or until golden brown.

Remove the fish from the skillet. Pour off the oil. Pour in the tangerine juice, and scrape up any browned bits. Return the tuna and simmer 1 minute. Sprinkle with parsley.

Remove the tuna from the pan, and let rest for 1 minute. Slice to serve. Makes 4 servings.

Each serving has: 340 calories; 12.5 grams fat; 54 grams protein; 6 grams carbohydrate; 84 milligrams cholesterol; and 620 milligrams sodium.


2 cups canned and rinsed black beans (slightly more than a 15-ounce can)

1 cup canned and rinsed garbanzo beans (slightly less than a 15-ounce can)

1 tablespoon tahini paste 1 teaspoon minced garlic

1 teaspoon kosher salt

1/2 teaspoon ground cumin

1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper

1 tablespoon chopped fresh cilantro

1/2 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice

1/2 teaspoon orange zest

1 tablespoon canola oil

Freshly ground black pepper

Combine black and garbanzo beans, tahini paste, garlic, salt, cumin, cayenne, cilantro, lemon juice and orange zest in food processor fitted with a steel blade. Process until smooth.

Spoon the hummus onto a large flat plate, and spread it out with the back of a spoon. Drizzle a small pool of olive oil in the center, and top with freshly ground pepper. Makes 8 servings.

Each serving has: 120 calories; 3.5 grams fat; 6 grams protein; 18 grams carbohydrates; 275 milligrams sodium; and 3 grams dietary fiber.

Bev Bennett is co-author of "The Dictionary of Healthful Food Terms'' Comment by clicking here.


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