The heavenly lemon cake at Cafe Europa is a hefty wedge of citrusy cake layered with lemon cream cheese icing and topped with lemon glaze. Photo by Sarah Benson/Ink | File

Versatile citrus fruits are having a moment on KC menus

The seafood risotto at Affäre features a medley of seared seafood that changes seasonally — scallops, shrimp, salmon and halibut are pictured. It’s served over a bed of lemon risotto. JILL TOYOSHIBA | File

Common in pastry dishes, adorning drinks and alongside fish, citrus is a versatile fruit enjoyed year round. But there is, in fact, a citrus season in the United States during the cooler months of late fall, winter and early spring when more and more varieties of citrus like blood oranges, tangerines and clementines are available. Citrus provides a brightness of flavor, and in color, to the often dreary nature of winter in the Midwest and enhances menus across the metro area.

Tom Kha Gai

Lulu’s Thai Noodle Shop, with locations at 2030 Central St. in Kansas City and 2701 W. 47th St. in Westwood

The tour begins with makrut lime, a citrus native to tropical Asian countries. Used often in Thai cuisine, the leaves of the makrut lime impart an intense citrus flavor. In the tom kha gai at Lulu’s, the makrut lime leaves provide an almost musty flavor that complements the thick, creamy, comforting coconut milk broth. Made with thin slices of chicken, vegetables, herbs and spices in a coconut milk broth, it is necessary, as the menu states, to love coconut milk to enjoy this soup. The small portion ($4.99), paired with a salad, is a light but satisfying lunch, or hunker down with a large portion ($6.99) to keep warm from the inside out.

Lemon Cake

Cafe Europa, with locations in Kansas City at 323 E. 55th St. and 2976 Gillham Road

The lemon cake at Cafe Europa is not lacking in praise — it appears in countless “best of” lists because it’s an instant classic. It has two layers of lemon cake sandwiching lemon cream cheese frosting and is topped with a lemon glaze. The bright yellow cake (available from 6 to 12 inches for $25 to $50) is tart and the icing a rich and decadent complement. But perhaps better than the cake itself, if for nothing more than its portability and the fact no fork is required, is the cupcake ($3) featuring the same lemon cake topped with peaks of lemon cream cheese frosting.

Seafood Risotto

Affäre, 1911 Main St.

A risotto, made rich and creamy with a toothsome bite, is the ultimate comfort food. At Affäre, the seafood risotto ($20) is a small bed of indulgent risotto in a wine cream sauce with a hint of lemon and topped with seared seafood that varies based on availability — scallops, salmon, shrimp and a meaty white fish such as halibut are often featured. Here, the lemon provides a fresh, bright note to the otherwise decadent dish. It’s something worth splurging on, or keep an eye on the Restaurant Week menu where it’s known to make an appearance.

Limoncello

Il Lazzarone, with locations at 412 Delaware St. in Kansas City and 1628 Frederick Ave. in St. Joseph

Digestifs, or after-dinner drinks, are known for their medicinal qualities to soothe upset stomachs of the overindulged and are often characterized as herbal and potent concoctions to swallow. Limoncello is a lighter and more refreshing digestif that hails from Italy where two regions, Campania and Liguria, both declare it their own. Limoncello is made by macerating lemon rinds in high-proof alcohol, straining the liquid after the alcohol is infused, and finishing it with sugar to balance its tartness. It’s not difficult to make limoncello at home, but it is time-consuming. So don’t wait when Il Lazzarone has perfected a housemade batch. Served chilled in a stemmed cordial glass, the limoncello is as bright yellow as a highlighter pen and best sipped and savored.

Cured Trout

The Rieger, 1924 Main St.

Tartine is a French term for an open-faced sandwich with either sweet or savory toppings. At its most basic, tartine is a high-quality slice of bread slathered with a quality butter and topped with anything from cheese and vegetables to smoked or cured fish. With the right topping, tartine is enough to make it a simple, light meal. The cured trout tartine ($9) on the winter menu at The Rieger is three slices of cured Missouri trout atop a single, horizontal slice of baguette with a healthy smear of fresh butter. Artful piles of caviar crown the trout, while preserved lemon, pink peppercorns and microgreens are scattered about. It’s a briny, creamy, crunchy combination that, enjoyed with a chilled glass of white wine, transports one from the banks of the Missouri River to a cafe along the coast of southern France.

Five Ways is a monthly column celebrating one thing in Kansas City’s culinary scene, five different ways. Do you have a timely topic for Andrea Shores to explore? Send ideas to info@inkkc.com.