My favorite citrus tree, a makrut lime tree (Mauritius papeda), doesn’t give me any fruit, just leaves. The fruit is tiny, hard, and inedible, but the leaves of this pretty tree are so fragrant they will waft you away to tropical climates with one smell.
Makrut lime leaves are popular in Thai and Indonesian cooking, and their pungent lime flavor is often used in cocktails and in lime desserts like sorbets, gelatos, and custards. You can buy the leaves fresh in most Asian grocery stores or online. They freeze well (up to several months), but I prefer fresh leaves. There is also an extract of the leaves. I have never tried it as my little tree supplies all the lime leaves I need.
Like Bay leaves, you don’t eat these thick double-lobed leaves, and remove them after cooking. I just bruise them a little by rubbing them between my hands before adding to dishes. You can also roll up and slice the leaves finely in dishes that will simmer for a while as the leaves do soften.
You can flavor rice by dropping a few of the leaves into the water in the rice cooker, along with some cardamom pods. Try using the leaves in the Asian equivalent of bouquet garni with lemongrass, ginger, and dried chili peppers. Put the leaves in a spice ball or cheesecloth bag.
Best of all, cooking with fresh herbs means you won’t need to add salt to your food, and you won’t miss it.
Fragrant Seafood Sauté
½–¾ pound shrimp, scallops, or squid
¼ cup butter
About 8 lime leaves
1–2 green onions, finely chopped
Black or white pepper
Rice in rice cooker, or noodles
Following your rice cooker directions, start rice cooker, adding half the lime leaves to the cooking water. Or, boil noodles and add leaves to the water.
Melt butter in skillet, and add remaining lime leaves, green onions, and seafood. Sauté until butter browns and shellfish is opaque. Remove leaves from seafood and rice cooker. Serve over rice or noodles. Makes about 4 servings
Nutritional information (without rice):
Calories: 204, Carbohydrates: 15 grams, Protein: 12 grams, Sodium: 575 milligrams
Lime Curry with Tofu
1 pound extra firm tofu, cubed
¼ cup butter
1 teaspoon ground cardamom
2 cups low-sodium canned tomatoes or tomato sauce
¼ cup chopped or grated fresh ginger
¼ cup minced or pressed garlic
½ cup chopped onion
1–2 teaspoons coriander powder
1 tablespoon cumin seeds
4 lime leaves, sliced very thin
1 teaspoon panang (or phanaeng) curry paste
½ cup coconut milk
Heat half of butter in pan and fry tofu until golden brown. Remove from pan and set aside. Add remaining butter to pan and melt. Add onions, garlic, ginger, and lime leaves. Cook until softened. Pour in coriander and cumin, and then cook a few minutes more, until seeds start popping. Add tomatoes, cardamom, and curry paste and simmer 10 to 15 minutes.
Carefully transfer to blender and puree until smooth or use an immersion blender to puree. Return tofu and sauce to the pan and heat thoroughly. Add coconut milk at the end of cooking. Cook another 2 minutes, remove from heat, and serve. Makes about 4 servings.
Calories: 263, Carbohydrates: 18 grams, Protein: 11 grams, Sodium: 122 milligrams
The information in this column is meant for people who want to keep their kidneys healthy and blood pressure down by following a low-sodium diet. In most cases, except for dialysis patients, a diet high in potassium is thought to help lower high blood pressure. These recipes are not intended for people on dialysis without the supervision of a registered dietitian.
Contributor Katy G. Wilkens is a registered dietitian and department head at Northwest Kidney Centers. A recipient of the Susan Knapp Excellence in Education Award from the National Kidney Foundation Council on Renal Nutrition, she has a Master of Science degree in nutritional sciences from the University of Washington. See more of Katy’s recipes at www.nwkidney.org.