In Our Backyard: Versatile limes add colour and taste

Eric Akis

I was grocery shopping the other day and noticed three types of limes for sale in the produce department. I bought some of all three and decided to use them in today’s recipes.

One was simply labelled a “lime,” because it’s the most common type and available year-round. That familiar-looking, green-skinned lime is also known as a Persian lime. I used the zest and juice from that lime, along with Sriracha and other palate-awakening ingredients, to flavour roast chicken. The result was a very tasty, succulent bird that exuded the most wonderful aroma when cooking.

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Persian is a common type of lime and is picked when fully grown, but still green, unripe and acidic in taste. But the second type of lime I bought, a sweet lime, is picked when ripe and yellow in colour.

These limes are prized for their unique, less acidic, sweeter taste. They can be used like other citrus fruit — such as being peeled, segmented and added to fruit salad. In today’s recipe, I used the juice from sweet limes to flavour a mojito, which is usually made with regular limes. It ended up being a light and refreshing cocktail one could sip while enjoying my richly seasoned roast chicken.

My last creation was a divine dessert: key lime cheesecake. Green to yellow/green skinned, juicy key limes, also called Mexican limes, are smaller and more acidic than regular limes. I used the zest and juice from that lime to flavour the batter for my cake. When baked, it had an irresistible creamy texture and a sweet taste with a touch of tanginess.

When buying any lime, opt for ones with brightly coloured skins that feel heavy for their size and have a bit of give when squeezed, indications that they are full of juice.

Sweet Lime Mojito

In this refreshing version of a mojito, sweet lime replaces the more acidic, regular lime normally used in this cocktail.

Preparation time: five minutes

Makes: two drinks

1/2 cup fresh sweet lime juice

2 tsp granulated sugar

24 fresh mint leaves

2 cups ice cubes

3 to 4 oz white rum

• cold club soda

2 mint sprigs, for garnish

2 sweet lime wedges, for garnish

Divide sweet lime juice, sugar and mint leaves between two tall 12-oz. glasses. Stir and muddle those ingredients well to dissolve the sugar and release the flavour of the mint. Pour 1 1/2 to 2 oz of rum into each glass. Add one cup of ice cubes to each glass, then top up each drink with club soda. Garnish each drink with a mint sprig and sweet lime wedge and serve.

Chili Lime Roast Chicken 

This chicken is marinated and roasted, richly flavouring it and making it extra juicy and succulent.

Preparation time: 20 minutes, plus marinating time

Cooking time: 80 to 90 minutes

Makes: four servings

1 Tbsp finely grated lime zest

3 Tbsp lime juice

2 Tbsp Sriracha (see Note)

2 Tbsp olive oil

1 1/2 tsp honey

1 large garlic clove, minced

1 tsp dried oregano

1 tsp smoked paprika

1 tsp ground cumin

1 (3 1/2 lb/1.6 kg) chicken

• salt to taste

• lime wedges for squeezing (optional)

Make chicken marinade by combining the zest and juice, oil, Sriracha, honey, garlic, oregano, paprika and cumin in a small bowl. Set chicken in a shallow-sided glass or ceramic dish. Brush and coat the chicken with the marinade. Cover the chicken, refrigerate and marinate for four hours, turning the bird occasionally. Preheat oven to 375 F. Set chicken in a shallow-sided roasting pan. Fold and tuck the wings under the body and tie the legs together. Brush chicken with leftover marinade; season with salt.

Roast the chicken, brushing it occasionally with the pan juices, for 80 to 90 minutes, or until an instant-read thermometer inserted into the deepest part of the thigh, not touching the bone, registers 170 F. Set chicken on a plate, cover with foil and let rest 10 minutes before carving and serving. If desired, for extra tangy chicken, serve it with wedges of lime for squeezing at the table.

Note: Sriracha is a red chili-based sauce sold in a squeeze bottle at most supermarkets.

Key Lime Cheesecake

Reduced key lime juice and key lime zest flavour this lovely cheesecake you can garnish with spirals of whipped cream, if desired.

Preparation time: 25 minutes

Cooking time: 45 to 50 minutes

Makes: eight to 10 servings

1 Tbsp finely grated key lime zest (see Note)

1/2 cup fresh key lime juice (see Note)

1 1/4 cups graham crumbs

1/4 cup butter, melted

3 (250 gram) bricks firm cream cheese, at room temperature

1 cup granulated sugar

3 large eggs

1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract

• tiny wedges of key lime, for garnish

• whipped cream, to taste (optional)

Place the zest in a small bowl. Place the 1/2 cup juice in a small pot, set over medium heat, and simmer and reduce to a syrupy 1 1/2 to 2 Tbsp. Pour that juice into the bowl with the zest and set aside for now.

Preheat oven to 350 F. Combine graham crumbs and butter in a medium bowl. Spoon, spread and press this crust mixture into the bottom of a 9-inch spring-form cake pan. Place the cream cheese in a mixing bowl and beat until smooth. Gradually beat in sugar. Beat in the eggs one at a time, scraping the sides of the bowl after each addition. Mix in the lime zest/juice mixture and vanilla.

Pour the batter into the cake pan. Bake for 45 to 50 minutes, or until the cake jiggles slightly only in the very centre when the pan is tapped.

Set cake on cool rack. Now, run a sharp, wet paring knife around the edge of the unmoulded cake to a depth of 1-inch (this will help prevent the cake form cracking as it cools and contracts). Cool cake to room temperature, then cover and refrigerate for four hours, or overnight.

Unmould the cake and transfer to a cake plate or stand. Garnish the cake, if desired, with piped spirals of whipped cream and key lime wedges.

Note: Three key limes should yield the amount of zest needed. Six to seven key limes, when halved and squeezed, should yield the amount of fresh juice needed.

To further help prevent your cheesecake from cracking on top, place a shallow pan of water in the bottom of the oven during baking.

The rising steam will keep the top of the cake from becoming overly dry and cracking.

Eric Akis is the author of eight cookbooks. His columns appear in the Life section Wednesday and Sunday.

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