How To Cook With Lime Juice

Cooking with lime juice offers advantages over vinegar and lemon juice, due to its slightly tropical flavor.  Many recipes calling for lemon juice and/or vinegar can benefit by the substitution of lime juice.  Marinades are the perfect medium for lime juice, because it is less acidic than lemon but still powerful in flavor.  Lime juice can be added as a subtle accent in many styles of cooking, but in Mexican and island-style cooking it becomes a star player.

Here are some suggested substitution uses, where lime juice can be substituted for lemon or vinegar, at a 1:1 ratio: barbecue sauce, vinaigrette dressing, sauce for cucumber salad, green goddess dressing, marinara sauce, scampi sauce, stir-fry sauce, shish-kebab sauce, rice dishes, seafood soups, black beans, marinades for seafood and chicken or for beef and pork.  Since lime juice does not cause "over-cooking" or toughening the meat as quickly as vinegar and lemon juice, a little more can be added to marinade recipes if extra liquid is needed.  For long-term marination -- as in 12 hours or more -- lime juice is much safer than lemon, to avoid toughening of the meat.

Tips for purchasing and juicing limes:

A.  Look for a grass-green color, not too dark or too light.  Avoid the harder fruits, as they are difficult to juice.  Mushy fruits are also to be avoided, as they may be on the verge of becoming moldy.  Keep 10-12 limes in the refrigerator for all the uses above, as well as drink garnishes.  Limes will keep fresh for about 2 to 3 weeks in the refrigerator.

B.  Before juicing, crush the fruit slightly by rolling it firmly on the kitchen countertop.  This loosens up the fibers of the pulp, and yields more liquid.  Strain the juice after processing it by hand or with an electric juicer.  Juice 4 or 5 limes at a time, to have some on hand for the quick substitutions listed above.  Keep an empty jar handy for this specific use, and refill it weekly.  Depending on its size, each lime will usually yield up to one-third of a cup of juice.

In Mexican and island-style cooking, lime juice is a must, especially for black bean soup, chicken sauces, and guacamole. There is a partnership between the avocado and the lime that cannot be denied.  Many cooks have tried variations in the effort to make guacamole without lime juice, but there is simply no substitute worth mentioning.

Recipe:  To make an authentic guacamole dip without the mayonnaise, mash two ripe avocados with a fork, and set aside. Dissolve a chicken bouillon cube in half a cup of lime juice.  Strain a can of diced tomatoes, and discard the canned juice.  Mix the lime juice, bouillon, and tomatoes together.  Finely chop one small onion, and stir into the mashed avocado.  Combine all ingredients.  Add hot sauce or cayenne pepper to taste.


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