Pesto with a citrusy twist and more weeknight recipes to try


By Emily Weinstein, The New York Times

Citrus season has now arrived, a jewel-toned gift to those of us who live somewhere that’s currently gray. Like many people, I gravitate toward stews and braises this time of year, the genre of home cooking that can best be described as “something in warm sauce.”

But I love to cut through that richness with the magnificent citrus you can find right now: lemons, limes, grapefruit, mandarins, tangerines, blood oranges and so on. The list is long, and the flavors are bracing.

While some dishes showcase peak-season fruit — I’m thinking of citrus salad — most can be made with any fruit you find at the store. The weeknight recipes below will certainly work well.

1. Pan-Seared Fish With Citrus Pesto

Ali Slagel's pan-seared fish with citrus pesto, on Dec. 22, 2022. It's made without cheese, which also means it's vegan, and you could pair it with pasta, rather than fish, if you prefer. Stylist: Eugene Jho (Bobbi Lin, The New York Times)
Ali Slagel’s pan-seared fish with citrus pesto, on Dec. 22, 2022. It’s made without cheese, which also means it’s vegan, and you could pair it with pasta, rather than fish, if you prefer. Stylist: Eugene Jho (Bobbi Lin, The New York Times)

Genovese pesto isn’t the only pesto around: There are many regional variations, including an incredibly vibrant and light Sicilian version that stars citrus. This naturally vegan version doesn’t need cheese, because the citrus provides acidity and the capers and toasted nuts lend umami. Pistachios and almonds grow abundantly in Sicily, but walnuts or pine nuts would also work. You’ll find citrus pestos made with anchovies, garlic, dried oregano, fennel fronds, dried chile and, yes, cheese, so feel free to adapt this base recipe as you wish. Italians historically don’t mix seafood and cheese, but since this pesto eschews cheese, it’s as good with pasta as it is with simply seared or grilled fish.

By Ali Slagle

Yield: 4 servings

Total time: 30 minutes


For the pesto:

  • 1/2 cup toasted pistachios or slivered almonds
  • 2 teaspoons drained and rinsed capers
  • Kosher salt (such as Diamond Crystal)
  • 2 cups mint or basil leaves (or a combination)
  • 1 tablespoon lemon, tangerine or grapefruit zest plus 3 tablespoons juice
  • 1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil, plus more as needed

For the fish:

  • 4 (6-ounce) fish fillets, such as arctic char, striped bass or salmon, skin on or off
  • Salt
  • Extra-virgin olive oil, for greasing


1. To make the pesto, add the pistachios, capers and 1 teaspoon salt to a food processor and process until coarsely chopped. Add the herbs, citrus juice and a pinch of salt and pulse until the herbs are finely chopped and the nuts are about the size of sesame seeds. Add the olive oil and pulse just until combined. Stir in 1 teaspoon of citrus zest. Taste, then continue to add more zest and salt until the pesto is citrusy and punchy. Thin with 2 to 3 more tablespoons of olive oil until it’s the consistency of a loose paste. Taste, and adjust seasonings as needed. (To use the pesto on pasta, see Tip.)

2. To make the fish, season it all over with salt and oil. Working in batches if necessary, add the fish (skin-side down, if your fillets are skin-on) to a large (12-inch) nonstick skillet, then heat over medium. Cook until the flesh is opaque 3/4 of the way up the sides, 6 to 12 minutes, depending on the thickness of the fish. If the fish is buckling, press it down with a spatula so it makes contact with the skillet. Flip and cook until cooked through, 1 to 2 minutes. Transfer to plates, skin-side up if serving skin-on fish, and eat with a spoonful of pesto.

TIP: To make pesto pasta, skip the additional 2 to 3 tablespoons oil and toss the thick pesto with cooked pasta and a little pasta cooking water. Leftovers keep for up to 3 days.

2. Citrus Skillet Shrimp With Shallots and Jalapeños

Yasmin Fahr's citrus skillet shrimp with shallots and jalepeños, on Dec. 22, 2022. In this smart new recipe, Fahr applies the flavors and feel of ceviche to quickly seared shrimp. Fish or scallops can swap in for the shrimp, and you could reduce or omit the jalapeño to suit your needs. Stylist: Eugene Jho (Bobbi Lin, The New York Times)
Yasmin Fahr’s citrus skillet shrimp with shallots and jalepeños, on Dec. 22, 2022. In this smart new recipe, Fahr applies the flavors and feel of ceviche to quickly seared shrimp. Fish or scallops can swap in for the shrimp, and you could reduce or omit the jalapeño to suit your needs. Stylist: Eugene Jho (Bobbi Lin, The New York Times)

Inspired by the bright, refreshing flavors of ceviche, this recipe takes advantage of an abundance of winter citrus to season pan-cooked shrimp, cooking it until tender and warm rather than curing it simply using salt and acidity and without the application of heat, as classic ceviches do. Shallots and jalapeños quickly bathe in orange and lime juice to cut the rawness and heat of each. You can substitute chopped scallions for the shallots, and white fish or scallops are easy stand-ins for shrimp. Best enjoyed with rice and a simple lettuce salad with avocado and a mustard vinaigrette, this vibrant, colorful dish can brighten up even the dreariest of cold days.

By Yasmin Fahr

Yield: 4 servings

Total time: 15 minutes


  • 1 navel orange, zested and juiced (see tip)
  • 2 limes, zested and juiced (see tip)
  • 1 medium shallot, cut into thin rings
  • 1 jalapeño, seeded and finely chopped
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cumin
  • Kosher salt
  • 1/2 packed cup fresh cilantro leaves and tender stems
  • 1 1/2 pounds large peeled, deveined shrimp (tails on or off)
  • 1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil


1. In a small bowl, combine the orange and lime zest and juice with the shallot, jalapeño, cumin and 1/2 teaspoon salt; stir to combine. Roughly chop two-thirds of the cilantro and add it to the bowl; toss to combine, then set aside the citrus mixture.

2. Pat the shrimp dry. Season all over with salt and the paprika. Heat a 12-inch skillet over medium-high heat until hot. Add the oil, tilt the skillet to slick the bottom evenly, then spread the shrimp in an even layer. (It’s OK if they are a little snug.) Cook the shrimp, undisturbed, for 3 minutes, until just pink underneath. Turn the shrimp over and cook until the shrimp are fully pink all over, with no gray spots, 1 to 3 minutes more, depending on the size of the shrimp.

3. Remove from the heat onto an empty burner and immediately pour the citrus mixture into the skillet, gently tossing to coat the shrimp, about 1 minute. (The shrimp will continue to cook in the residual heat so you can undercook the shrimp by 30 seconds.) Lightly tear or chop the remaining cilantro, sprinkle on top and serve.

TIP: To maximize the amount of citrus juice without using (or cleaning) a press, insert a fork into an orange or lime half, and move it up and down like a lever while squeezing the citrus. Pulp is welcome.

3. Buttery Lemon Pasta With Almonds and Arugula

Brown butter, crunchy almonds and tangy lemon make a rich but balanced sauce for this pantry-friendly pasta. The arugula lends freshness and rounds out the pasta, turning this into a quick one-pot meal. If you want to increase the vegetables, you can double the arugula. (Just add a little more lemon juice.) And if you don’t have baby (or wild) arugula on hand, spinach or baby kale are fine, though slightly milder, substitutes. Don’t stint on the red-pepper flakes; their spiciness helps bring together the flavors.

By Melissa Clark

Yield: 4 to 6 servings

Total time: 25 minutes


  • Fine salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 pound linguine or spaghetti
  • 6 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1 cup sliced almonds
  • 2 fresh rosemary sprigs
  • 1/4 teaspoon red-pepper flakes, plus more to taste
  • 1/4 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice, plus more to taste
  • 1 tablespoon finely grated lemon zest
  • 4 to 5 ounces baby or wild arugula, coarsely chopped, or use baby kale or spinach (4 to 5 cups)
  • Grated Parmesan, for serving


1. Bring a large pot of heavily salted water to a boil. Add pasta and cook until it is 1 minute shy of being al dente, usually a minute or 2 less than the package instructions. Scoop out about 1 1/2 cups pasta water, then drain pasta.

2. While the pasta cooks, in a large skillet or Dutch oven, melt butter over medium heat. Cook, swirling occasionally, until the foam subsides, the milk solids turn golden-brown and the butter smells nutty and toasty, 3 to 4 minutes. (Watch carefully to see that it doesn’t burn.)

3. Stir in almonds, rosemary and red-pepper flakes, and cook, stirring occasionally, until the nuts are toasted and slightly darker in color, about 1 minute.

4. Add about 1 cup pasta water to the skillet and bring to a simmer. Add lemon juice, zest, 1/2 teaspoon salt and a large pinch of black pepper, then add drained pasta and toss well. Add arugula, tossing until it wilts. Simmer for another minute, if needed, to thicken the sauce until it’s thick and glossy. If the mixture seems dry, add more pasta water 1 tablespoon at a time.

5. Taste and add more salt, red-pepper flakes and lemon juice, if needed. Serve topped with grated Parmesan and more red-pepper flakes, if you like.

4. Spicy Citrus Skirt Steak

You don’t need a meat thermometer to grill a great skirt steak: When cooked over high heat, the inside will be medium-rare once the steak is bronzed on the outside. For seasoning, counter the cut’s big buttery flavor with something salty, spicy or fresh. In this recipe, the grilled steak rests in a tart sauce of tangerine, soy sauce, ginger and vinegar that is reminiscent of ponzu, with hints of citrusy bitterness similar to the dried tangerine peel used in Sichuan and Hunan cooking. Here, that bittersweet edge comes from charring the fruit and peel. Serve with rice or a grilled green vegetable like Chinese broccoli or asparagus.

By Ali Slagle

Yield: 4 servings

Total time: 30 minutes, plus grill heating


  • 1 1/2 pounds skirt steak (see tips)
  • 8 tangerines, satsumas or mandarin oranges, washed and halved horizontally
  • 6 tablespoons unseasoned rice wine vinegar
  • 6 tablespoons low-sodium soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoon sambal oelek or Sriracha, plus more as needed
  • 1 (1-inch) piece ginger, peeled and finely grated (about 1 tablespoon)
  • 1 garlic clove, finely grated
  • Kosher salt and black pepper
  • Neutral oil, such as grapeseed



Source link