Beating winter blues in Chicago with exotic fruit

In the winter, just about the only excitement to be found in the produce section is in citrus. All the other fruit has that anemic, flown-in-from-the-southern-hemisphere look. Summer vegetables like peppers, zucchini and tomatoes are expensive or tasteless or both. And while I love cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, root vegetables, and winter squash, by the dead of winter, they’re all starting to get old.

Citrus Bars recipe




While we are all familiar with lemon bars, you can use almost
any citrus fruit in place of lemons for a fun twist on this classic
dessert. Key limes are especially good in this recipe.




    • 1 stick cold unsalted butter, cut into pieces


    • ¼ cup sugar


    • 1 cup all-purpose flour


    • ½ tsp. salt


    • Citrus custard


    • 2 eggs at room temperature


    • 1 cup sugar


    • 2 Tbsp. flour


    • ½ tsp. baking powder


    • 2 Tbsp. citrus juice


    • Zest from citrus fruit


    • Powdered sugar



Preheat oven to 325 degrees. To make the crust for the bars,
whisk together flour, sugar and salt in a bowl. Add the pieces of
butter and cut them into the flour mixture using two knives or a
pastry blender until mixture resembles coarse crumbs. (The dough
will not hold together but instead will remain crumbly. That’s


Pour crust mixture into an ungreased 8×8 square baking pan and
press down with your fingertips until it starts to come together
just a bit. Bake crust for 20 minutes. Remove pan from oven and set
aside. Turn heat up to 350 degrees.


Meanwhile, make the custard. In a standing mixer, beat the eggs
and sugar. Add the flour, baking powder, and the citrus juice and
citrus zest. Mix until smooth. Pour the citrus custard on top of
the baked crust. Bake 20-25 minutes until the custard is set.


Cool on a wire rack. While the bars are still warm, dust the top
with powdered sugar. Cut into squares.


Citrus Fruit Syrup


If you are at a loss for what to do with any citrus fruit, try
making delicious syrup from the juice. Serve the syrup with
sparkling water, sparkling wine such as Prosecco or gin. Yum!


    • 1 cup sugar


    • 1 cup water


    • 1 cup freshly squeezed citrus juice


    • Zest from the juiced fruit



Place the sugar and water in a small saucepan and heat, stirring
to dissolve the sugar. (This is just a simple syrup). When the
sugar is dissolved, remove the pan from the heat and allow the
syrup to cool. Add the citrus juice and zest to the simple syrup
and whisk together. Place syrup in a jar or bottle and




Exotic varieties of citrus are one of the few culinary highlights in the otherwise bleak Chicago winter. Like an antidote to the winter doldrums, a new kind of citrus fruit arrives in the stores every week. Pomelos, tangelos, blood oranges, Key limes and Meyer lemons are just some of the varieties that you find in the grocery store at this time of year.

Citrus fruits work well in both sweet and savory dishes and add not only the brightness of their acidity, but also a jolt of welcome color.

Here are some of the more unusual citrus fruits you can find in grocery stores and ideas for how to use them. If a recipe calls for citrus juice, be sure to zest the fruit first so you don’t waste all the flavor and oils that are found in the outer layer of peel. You can use the zest to flavor sugar and even salt.

Blood oranges: Named for the deep, beet red color of its flesh, blood oranges are usually smaller than navel oranges-you might confuse it for a tangerine at first glance-and have a more dimpled peel. Blood oranges are prized not only for their color but for their sweet, fruity flavor. Blood oranges are often showcased in salads or their juice is used in cocktails and sauces.

Pomelos: Pomelos are round, large and often yellow or pale green in color. Some scientists think that the pomelo is the grapefruit’s ancestor and that grapefruit are actually a hybrid of oranges and pomelos. Pomelos, which are milder than grapefruit but have a similar flavor, are native to Southeast Asia. Not surprisingly, you typically see pomelos in salads or desserts in Vietnamese or Thai cuisine. Pomelos have very thick rinds, which make them a chore to peel. They are delicious to eat out of hand and make a refreshing addition to a salad. For an elegant first course, try a winter salad with arugula, pomelo segments and red onion. Or you can just zest and juice pomelos and use them in any of your favorite citrus recipes.

Rangpur Limes: Rangpur limes look like orange limes but they aren’t even limes at all. They are a cross between a mandarin and a lemon. The zest and juice of the Rangpur lime are wonderfully flavorful and tart. Some even say the juice has a smoky flavor. They are very seedy, so it’s a bit of a chore to juice them. People who are familiar with Rangpur limes associate them with Indian cuisine; in fact, the fruit originated on the subcontinent and did not arrive in the United States until the 19th century. Rangpur lime juice is a favorite in cocktails. Tanqueray even makes a special Rangpur lime-infused version of its iconic gin. You can use them as you would any citrus fruit.


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