Like salt, but zestier
EC: You Should Add Lemon Zest to Everything You Eat and Drink
Credit: Photo by DebbiSmirnoff via Getty Images

Lemon zest belongs in pretty much any food or drink you'd care to ingest in the morning, except perhaps milk. Maybe even that, but I have yet to try it. Everything else, just zest away at the next breakfast dish in front of you and see how that goes. OK, spoiler alert in case you're not currently in close proximity to a lemon and a Microplane: The gentle, bitter perfume of the lemon zest unlocks another dimension of whatever food you're eating, not unlike those weird but excellent dreams where you suddenly stumble upon a previously hidden room in your house, or possibly Narnia. Let me be your Mr. Tumnus of flavor—follow me.

First, let's get you zesting properly. This isn't just plopping chunks of lemon rind right into your oatmeal and chomping down. Aaargh! That'll put you off citrus forever. Rather, get your paws on a fresh, clean lemon with a peel that's not all dessicated and scarred. What you're after is the heady, happy-making oils. You can deploy a grater, zester, or a very sharp knife if you don't own a Microplane, but really, you should get a Microplane. (This story is not sponsored by Microplane, but I would happily sell out to them in a heartbeat.) It's essentially a handheld, very fine and shallow-toothed grater that removes the lightest wisp of outer peel, the part that contains the fragrant flavor. It also works brilliantly on hard cheeses, spices, vegetables, and plenty of other foodstuffs, but it's ideal for lemons because it allows you to just get that top layer and miss the white, spongy, not-at-all delicious pith below.

So whatcha gonna do with this magic stuff? Sprinkle it on everything. Oatmeal, yogurt, buttered toast, jelly, fruit, pancakes, French toast, muffins and other baked goods, grain bowls, cured fish, eggs—yes, eggs. A pinch of lemon zest folded into omelets, sprinkled with Aleppo pepper atop scrambled eggs, or blowing up a Benedict is a surprisingly joyful way to start the day. That whole espresso and lemon peel thing you see in Italian restaurants? Apparently it's kinda bullcrap, but a little lemon zest in your tea, juice, or sparkling water adds quite a little something-something to the mix.

And don't limit yourself to lemons; limes, oranges, and grapefruit peels pack that punch, with that zingy, distinctive note that plays harmoniously with just about every food or drink it touches, sorta like salt does. In fact, if you're trying to slash your sodium intake, consider keeping a lemon around. A pinch of zest and maybe a drop or two of the juice can kick your favorite foods into overdrive. Does it work on Turkish delight? Probably. You've just gotta chase after your dreams. And any mythical creatures that show up in your closet.