All the world loves a lime, despite its mouth-puckering punch.
India highlights its extreme acidity in a spicy, garlicky pickle, Peru’s ceviche “cooks” raw fish in lime juice, while Florida’s marble-sized key limes shine in a sweet custard pie, to name a few famous creations.
Though the round, seedless, thin-skinned limes we buy from Mexico are officially called Persian limes, I didn’t spy any on a recent trip to Iran. But I did encounter my first dried lime, the hard, dark ball adding an unexpected tang and bitter edge to a rich split pea stew accompanied by saffron-tinted rice.
Between North America’s growing number of lime-loving Hispanic immigrants and the Millennials, who love its fresh, healthy flavour and perfumed zest, lime sales are soaring according to major US importer Robinson Fresh. With Cinco de Mayo around the corner on May 5, the city’s Mexican chefs are gearing up for a weekend-long party, infusing limes in everything from tangy cocktails to tasty tacos.
“We use limes in everything as a finishing touch,” says Elia Herrera, Mexican-born executive chef for Los Colibris and El Caballito, who offers a wedge of lime with her tacos, duck confit carnitas and shrimp dishes, and adds it bright, zesty flavour to traditional soups such as pozole.
Visit her restaurants for Cinco de Mayo or put the squeeze on a few limes at home.
Buy & Store
- Mexico’s Persian limes are available year-round, with heaviest production from May through October.
- Limes are sold ripe and ready to eat.
- Though shiny, dark green limes may be tempting, they may also be hard and acidic with little juice. Choose a lime that’s soft to the touch and heavy for its size, says Robinson Fresh expert Bill Edwards. Look for a lighter green, even yellow colour for more juice and better flavour. Don’t worry if the colour’s a little blotchy, as the fruit may have been partly shaded from the sun as it grew.
- Refrigerate limes up to a month. Bring to room temperature before juicing.
- For maximum juice, microwave a lime for 30 seconds or roll a room-temperature lime on the counter with the palm of your hand.
- Slice in half vertically before juicing.
- Freeze fresh lime juice in ice cube trays then transfer cubes to freezer bags.
- Switch up lemons for limes in recipes for its intense tart taste.
- Add lime juice to low-fat vanilla yogurt.
- Squeeze a lime wedge over fish.
- Add to sparkling water.
- Stir lime chunks and juice into homemade or store-bought salsa.
- Squeeze lime into a non-creamy soup.
- Mexican Limeade: Buy 10 limes, zest 5 with a Microplane grater then juice them all. Process 1 cup (250 mL) granulated sugar with the grated zest. Transfer to pitcher with 6 cups (1.5 L) water; stir to dissolve sugar. Add lime juice and 2 cups (500 mL) ice cubes to pitcher. Stir; strain out zest if desired. Serve cold.
- Ceviche: Marinate raw mild fish in lime juice with onion, chili pepper, salt and pepper for several hours. Serve at room temperature.
- Easy guac: Cut a soft avocado into cubes or slices, sprinkle with lime juice and season with salt and pepper.
Elia’s Fish Tacos
El Caballito chef Elia Herrera serves her fish tacos with pickled vegetables, but offered this simpler version for Cinco de Mayo. Buy Mexican-style Crema La Vaquita in Kensington Market or make your own. If you’re not keen on deep-frying, toss a few fish pieces at a time in a plastic bag with a little flour, salt and pepper, shake off excess then pan-fry.
500g cod fillets, rinse and pat dry
Pico de Gallo
3 roma tomatoes, diced
1/4 medium white onion, diced
1 to 2 jalapeno peppers, thinly sliced
1/3 bunch cilantro, leaves chopped
2 limes, juice and zest
Salt to taste
1 ¼ cups (200 g) rice flour
¾ cup (100g) all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking powder
1 large egg
1 cup club soda or more as needed
Salt to taste
Vegetable oil for frying
5-inch (12 cm) corn or wheat tortillas
For pico de gallo, combine tomatoes, onion, chiles (remove seeds if you don’t do heat), cilantro, lime juice, zest and salt. Set aside.
Thickly slice fish and season with salt and pepper.
For batter, stir flours and baking powder in a medium bowl to combine. In a small bowl, whisk egg and club soda. Stir into flour mixture to make a lump-free batter just thick enough to coat a spoon, adding more soda as needed. Add salt to taste.
Heat 3 to 4 inches of oil in a deep pan or deep fryer to 375°F using a deep-fry/candy thermometer. Dredge fish in batter, allowing any excess to drip off, then carefully add to hot oil one or two pieces at a time. Cook until golden, 5 to 7 minutes, remove with slotted spoon and drain on paper towels.
To assemble, warm tortillas in a dry skillet, add one or two pieces of fried fish, top with pico de gallo and drizzle with crema, if desired. Makes 4 servings.