In our household, we are constantly trying to mitigate waste; waste not, want not could be our household mantra. We do our best not to waste resources, food, time, energy and money. Therefore in my continual quest to eat well on a limited budget, I am a huge proponent of the sale produce bins. I am not afraid of a few bruises or misshapen pieces — I know what to do with the produce others do not want. My favorite thing these days is the $2 bags of produce at the natural grocery chain. These bags are gems full of produce that within a few days will be delegated to the compost bin. I am a rescuer of these fruits and veggies, a produce rescue missionary.
I cherish the days when I can score one of these bags because whatever is inside dictates the menu for the next couple of days. Soon, I will write an entire blog homage to the wonder that is the $2 (did I mention 100% Organic?) produce bag. Today, my message is all about the limes.
My latest $2 score included approximately 3 pounds of limes and 2 bunches of fresh spinach. The spinach was quickly turned into pesto and wilted further into a breakfast egg scramble. The limes presented a tempting challenge; what could I do with this many limes? An impromptu margarita cocktail party was my initial thought but that seemed like a bad idea on a work night. I decided that what I could not use immediately, (i.e. margaritas or mojitos) could easily be saved for later occasions.
As a southwestern Colorado mountain dweller, I am appreciative of every lemon, lime, orange, avocado and banana I am able to get because none of these are grown within my time zone. Often we only use the inside of the citrus fruit and forget about the incredible aromatics of the peel. In our kitchen, I always save the zest for another recipe; a pinch of citrus zest can be an incredible addition to many dishes. With the use of a zester or the finest setting on your cheese grater (careful to not scrape your knuckles!), you can extract the peel from the fruit. You only want the outside of the peel and not the bitter pith which is the white coating protecting the interior. I zested all of the lime peels to freeze for another time. This zest will be great in Pad Thai or a stir-fry or in muffins when I need something to brighten up the flavor. There is a good reason why the peel is called zest, it will add pep to any dish you choose.
After I zested, I juiced the remaining limes with a hand-held juicer. A helpful tip here: it is probably a good idea to wear gloves if you have a lot of minor scrapes, cuts and overall dry hands. What you extract is pure lime juice without any weird added coloring or sugar. I chose to juice the limes into a Pyrex measuring cup because the next step in my lime preservation is lime juice ice cubes. The rational being that because lime is such a strong flavor, the ice cube size is a perfect proportion for future margaritas, I mean recipes.
After all of this prep work, our house smelled enticingly of limes. Naturally I needed to see if my preservation plan worked. I took the smallest lime cube and plopped it into a cocktail glass with tequila. Blimey my drink is limey! The lime cubes are quite intense, but on the positive side, in just a few sips I have prevented scurvy.
Don’t overlook the bins of bruised veggies and fruits. There are so, so many way to preserve produce. If you are going to cook within a few days, save yourself a few dollars and save the produce from the slow decomposition back into soil. Really ripe produce forces you to be creative in the kitchen and make the best with what you’ve got when you’ve got it.