Written by adam on Jul 19, 2007
Language of Food: Zest
Don't you just love those words that can be used as multiple parts of speech? Zest is a fun word that can be used as a noun or verb. Add a single 'Y' on the end, and bingo ... you've got adjective. Good times. So let's take a look at this multi-functional word and all of it's uses.
Epicurious describes zest as "The perfumy outermost skin layer of citrus fruit (usually oranges or lemons), which is removed with the aid of a citrus zester ..." You know, that's an OK definition, but it's not entirely accurate the way I see it. When the perfumy outermost skin is still on the fruit, it's not called Zest. It's called skin. It only becomes zest when you use the zester.
You've probably seen it used in recipes a hundred time ... lemon zest, lime zest, orange zest, grapefruit zest. When you use a zester or a microplane grater against the skin of a fruit, you are essentially peeling loose that layer of skin about a hundredth of an inch thick. In citrus fruits such as lemons and oranges, that outermost skin is very flavorful and aromatic and can often add as much flavor to your dishes as the juice of the fruit itself.
I'm a big fan of using this as a verb. It's not the most widely used form of zest, but it's fun to say "could you please zest me some lemon zest?" As a verb, zest means to give zest to, add spirit or charm. I'd say that works.
to make zest an adjective you must add a 'y' to the end. Zesty means full of zest, piquant, energetic, or active. Unfortunately, advertisers and marketers have overused this word when trying to describe something spicy or full of flavor. Common bastardizations are "zesty italian," "zesty ranch," or "Zesty Chicken Enchilada." Yuck.
Good thing about this word is the ability to be in a sentence at least 4 times.
"Could you please zest some zesty zest with this zester?"