Blood Orange, Cara Cara, Satsuma, Tangerine, Navel, Little Cuties, Mandarins by any other name would still taste as sweet or tangy, fresh or juicy. It is February and peak season for all manner of citrus. Some are easy to peel, some are seedless, some have smooth skins and some are more pithy.
My favorite winter centerpiece is a simple bowl of beautiful oranges. They glow in the late evening light.
Lovely slices of blood oranges and cara cara oranges ready for a salad. Simple and clean.
Here are four “easy-as-this” steps for making perfect oranges slices. This method is sometimes called “supreming” and it is just a technique in which you cut away the pith/membrane from the fruit before slicing or sectioning.
Pretty easy huh? Slices piled on a salad plate topped with radish sprouts and a drizzle of dressing. It really is as “easy as this”.
My friend Brad Hunter is a great “gift giver”. Over the years I have received quite a few from him and they are all among of my favorites. Some folks have that knack. Brad is one of those folks.
He recently gave me a “cookbook-for-a-cause”. “Soup for Syria” is not just another cookbook. Many well-known chefs and cookbook authors contributed recipes for soups from around the world to raise funds for food relief efforts for Syrian refugees, of which at publication, numbered 3.8 million. Many, many of them children. Buy this beautifully photographed book, make some heart warming soup. Do what you can.
This Sunday afternoon I made an adaptation of the cover recipe “Tomato Basil Soup with Bread” a recipe from contributor Martyna Monaco. It’s crazy easy to make, very delicious and comforting.
It is the end of January 2017. It’s my birthday week. It has been a rocky month politically. Today I had to turn inside myself and away from the never-ending news feeds that seem to break a little piece of my heart every time I listen. I took the afternoon off from being vigilant. I went for a walk in the wintry gloom listening to music to clear my head and heart. I baked an easy chocolate cake to sooth my soul. Baking helps.
This lovely cake is one dense, moist layer glazed with a really great chocolate bar melted on top and sprinkled with dried candied orange peels.
I broke this bar of chocolate into pieces and scattered over the top of the hot cake to melt. Any good bar of chocolate would do.
Ingredients for this cake are all mixed together in a blender. Easy and quick.
Easy Chocolate Espresso Cake with a Chocolate Glaze and Candied Orange Peels
4-6 ounce dark chocolate baking bar or flavored candy bar
1/2 cup candied orange peels
Preheat oven to 325 degrees
Melt butter in a glass deep dish pie or cake pan in the microwave and then pour melted butter into a blender.
To blender add eggs, sugar, cocoa, espresso powder, flour and vanilla extract. Pulse to blend ingredients together well, scraping down blender as needed.
Scrape cake batter into buttered glass dish and bake for 30-35 minutes or until cake is just done in the middle. Remove dish from oven to cool for a few minutes on a cooking rack. Turn hot cake out onto a plate.
Break bar of chocolate into small pieces and scatter over top of hot cake. Let melt and then spread over top to glaze.
Sprinkle candied orange peel over the top. Serve warm or room temperature.
Sometimes I see an ad for a new gadget or appliance that makes me stop and wonder. Wonder why? Wonder at the desperation to come up with the newest thing to sell to people just “because”. The novelty seems to be the thing in itself.
There is an ad for a refrigerator that is showing up everywhere right now that has a camera(s) inside that connects to your phone. If you have one of these you can always know what you have, or do not have, on hand to eat. Personally this is just too much information for me. One thing I wonder is if when you open this refrigerator does it take pics of you as well? Could this be another social media app- InstaRefrigerator? Has it come to this? You heard it here first!
Most days I just open the door of my refrigerator and improvise. Improvised recipes can be the best. Finding “hidden food” in the back of the fridge might even lead to a blog post. I happily found a few cartons of kumquats at the back of my “no-camera” fridge a few days ago. I bought them over the holidays, forgot about them, rediscovered them and made marmalade. Part of the fun was the unexpected discovery of these orange orbs still just as plump as the day I bought them.
A marmalade with three ingredients…seeded kumquats, maple syrup and a pinch of sea salt. It’s as “easy-as-this”.
Seeding is simple. Cut kumquats in half and seed with a spoon or your fingers. It takes a little time, but can be meditative.
Thick syrup, softened sweet-tart kumquat marmalade smeared on hearty crusty bread toasted, or not!
3 pints of fresh kumquats, rinsed, cut in half and seeded
1 cup real maple syrup
pinch of sea salt
Place kumquats and maple syrup in non-reactive pan and bring to a low boil. Turn heat to simmer, stirring often. Cook for about 30 minutes or until kumquats are softened to marmalade consistency and juice has thickened. If necessary add a bit of water to mixture as it cooks down.
Ladle marmalade into glass jars. Store chilled for up to 2 months.
After making this list of most popular-with-readers blog posts ever I noticed some common threads that must have made them so. One thing is there are lots of folks who respond to “boozy” posts. The exotic Buddha Hand citron is such a seductive subject in all its glory. Sweet things are universally appealing as are family stories. Enjoy.
#2. “Buddha’s Hand Good Luck Marmalade” A few years ago I ran across my first “Buddha Hand” citron. I purchased, I blogged and for over 6 years this post has been the second-all-time most popular, hit on, reposted of all my posts. It didn’t hurt that Smithsonian Magazine included a link to my site in their story about the subject. Who knew?
#3. Blood Orangecello and Bootlegging This post contains a family tale depicted in the title which must have proved irresistible to more than a few lovers of homemade hooch and blood-red, very-short-seasonal, blood oranges.
#4. Blackberries, A Snake and An Upside Down (Gluten Free) Cake One of my favorites. It has a story about a dramatic blackberry picking experience with my Grandmother that left a definite impression on me as a child. I cannot hear a store of blackberry picking without thinking of it. The cake recipe is pretty good too.
#5. Give Me Some Sugar, Sugah! Sugars flavored with so many good things such as ginger, lavender, star anise, vanilla beans and citrus peel just to name a few appealed to the sweet tooth in so many readers. This story was also an homage to all the real aunts, aunts-in-friendship, grandmothers and mothers who could never get enough of our sweet “sugah” when we were young.
Here is what I think…or one of the millions of things I think….find something to celebrate. It can be a little thing or a big thing or nothing real at all, but some creative thing going on inside your head. Take some time to celebrate something. It can only be a good thing, right?
This apple cake is of my own invention to celebrate no one thing, but just the season, the beautiful apples I had, a few lovely soft orange rose hips, some antique pieces recently acquired for props, the light coming in through the window on this particular day while I played with this still life. More than plenty to celebrate I think don’t you?
I made a wee cake and a larger cake..one to give away and one to enjoy.
A dusting of powdered sugar always seems celebratory to me.