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On Growing My Cake and Eating It, Too

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It’s been ridiculously long since my last post! Here are a few of my thoughts on the joys and excesses of eating local, originally published on Food Riot… Is it just me, or is this topic rich with contradictions?

Terroir is the French term — the notion that foods possess an innate sense of place, down to the soil, the air, the shape of the landscape. For example, that a pinot noir grape grown on a farm in Sonoma, California has a slightly different bite than a pinot noir grape grown along the Rio Negro river in Argentina. It’s like the notion, “you are what you eat,” except that before you consume this essence of self, the food is busy becoming what it is — and if you buy into the terroir concept, the essence of food could not be more Scarlett O’Hara-esque — rooted in terra, terroir, the land.

This terroir term makes me think of rap lyrics, a whole range of upwardly mobile artists touting loyalty to their roots. In the world of food, “going local” may strike a hopeful, less defensive tone, but it’s still the same sentiment — “I’m still Jenny from the block” translates into sticking to your roots — quite literally, your root vegetables — putting the brakes on the rather privileged, entitled, modern assumption that “the world is your oyster” in favor of an old-fashioned reverence for your own backyard, and the brand of leafy greens where you were born and raised.

Much like those leafy greens, I suppose that my “taste” is shaped by my environment. On the one hand, I was born and raised in Saint Louis — and in my case, an appreciation for certain Midwestern foodstuffs is somehow built in — cheese (even the much-maligned, processed, Imos-Pizza-topping Provel), red meat and hearty casseroles. On the other hand, as a Chicago resident, I have an abiding taste for Mexican — not the kind you find in Missouri, where the waiter might not be familiar with horchatas. I tend to crave sour, spongy Ethiopian bread dipped in spicy vegetable medleys or Korean barbecue, with its thin, seared meats. My love of onions can take me around the world and back — from Indian curries to Chinese stir fries to Jewish latkes. Actually, scallions alone could do the trick. If I’m starting to sound less reverent and increasingly presumptuous when it comes to this simple, local food thing, what can I say; I came of age during the rise of The Food Network. I’m another earnest member of Generation Y trying to be slow and local, but really, I want to have my cake and eat it too, and I don’t necessarily want to grow my cake in my backyard. Plus, I don’t have a yard. I have a very persistent, slightly manic squirrel running along the rail of my balcony.

Truly, I respect and admire and value this notion of clean, fresh, local food. I’m inspired by Carlo Petrini, the founder of Slow Food International, who says that “food is what ought to remind us every day that we are part of nature, that we belong to nature, that we are inside nature — the greatest living system.” Proving Carlo’s point, I had the privilege to enjoy a bullfight “à la mort” (to the death) on the oversized steps of a Roman amphitheatre in Arles, France. This was my second visit — the first time, I opted to watch the bullfighters sort of dance around the bull, no death happening, because I thought it might upset me. But the fight à la mort was not a gruesome experience, it was more of a grounding experience, oddly like clean, wholesome manual labor. I watched the bull reach his fate underneath a pounding sun, alongside little kids chomping on ham and cheese sandwiches. I took a wrong turn on the way out and ended up passing the tremendous, half-suspended carcass on its way into the beef truck. The next day my husband ordered “toureau” for dinner, and there it was, or its relative, on his plate. Yes — that particular day, food was a profound reminder that we live inside nature, much closer to the cycle of life and death than I typically acknowledge.

It was through living in Provence for a short, sweet six weeks that I first experienced a deep appreciation for the relationship between food and terrain. Actually, the impact of terrain in Provence extends far beyond food. For example, I realized that Vincent Van Gogh’s famous paintings from the region didn’t so much exercise artistic license but skillfully capture the special quality of light that exists there, day after day. I didn’t realize until returning to the U.S. that Provence was a destination of sorts, that the richness of the landscape was truly la crème de la crème, as evidenced by certain brands of rose wine or cosmetics companies like l’Occitane. But like many things that hail from Italy or France, the romance and purity of “terroir” doesn’t always mesh with the full-speed-ahead, patchwork-quilt American way. When I come across a green t-shirt that reads YALE KALE or the scrunched up nose of a three year old working his way through a macrobiotic plate, I am impressed by certain Americans’ willful, dogged commitment to eating naturally. We invented fast food, and doggone it, we will just as industriously re-adopt slow flood. With similar intentions, I attempted my first herb garden last summer. I basked in the versatility of kale, the joy of snipping chives onto pasta, the fact that I didn’t need to buy scallions. But there were also times when I felt like the hungry caterpillar in reverse. All I wanted was one, small square of Imo’s Pizza, processed in a factory, delivered in a box. To borrow from another 90s child, Pete Nice, of 3rd Bass, I guess I’m just a product of my environment.

The Magic of Eggs and the Seduction of Cheese

Screen Shot 2013-12-15 at 12.58.56 PMThe title of this post is not mine, cheese-lover and egghead though I may be (actually, I’m a far cry from an egghead, just looking for an easy pun there). No, this enthusiastic quip hails from Judith Jones, food editor extraordinaire, titling a chapter in her book,The Pleasures of Cooking for One. As mentioned here, her recipes and general philosophy toward cooking with equal parts gusto and frugality also provide an excellent blueprint for couples, or two-party households. To kick off the last week before Christmas, I thought I’d take a cue from Judith and contribute my own take on the holly jolly with two everyday recipes that accomplish something special via a little grated Parmesan and beaten egg whites. As much as I love colored lights, bearded gnomes, and piles of pure driven snow, I believe that the magic of the holidays is inextricably linked with — what else? — “the magic of eggs and the seduction of cheese.”

Cheesy Pasta with Walnut Sauce

Screen Shot 2013-12-15 at 1.06.14 PMI first discovered this recipe a few years ago in Giada De Laurentiis’s Everyday Pasta, and I hadn’t made it for a while until I gave it a go last night. How does this fit into the “seduction of cheese”? Because cheese allows you to do things like make a dinner out of walnuts. I love walnuts but I suppose you could make it with anything — almonds, pistachios, hazelnuts — it was a bit of a revelation for me in the frugality department because aside from half-and-half, I usually have the ingredients lying around, or some sufficient substitution (milk would do for the half and half and you could swap out whatever dried herbs you have). I also love that it’s a true sauce and not a pesto, and in that sense it’s a new way of thinking about making pasta with nuts — it’s sort of like you’re making a pesto and then adding pasta water and cream to make it a warm sauce. The original recipe calls for rotelli (those short spirals) but I happened to buy some purdy tagliatelle at Trader Joe’s last weekend. (Original recipe also calls for heavy cream and parsley instead of rosemary, if you want to give that combo a try.) I feel like tagliatelle makes things elegant for a cosy Sat night at home with my husband, and I think the “woody” rosemary pairs well with walnuts.

Ingredients

  • 16 oz. bag of egg noodles, such as tagliatelle
  • 2 T. butter
  • 1 1/2 cup toasted walnuts
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon pepper
  • 3/4 c. olive oil
  • 1/2 cup hard, nutty cheese (Parm or Asiago)
  • 1/2 cup half-and-half, warmed
  • Chopped rosemary
  • Reserved pasta water

Prep Pasta and Walnuts

Set pasta water to boil; meanwhile, toast walnuts for 2-3 minutes in a warm, dry skillet over medium-low heat.

Make the Sauce

In a food processor fitted with a steel blade, combine walnuts, butter, salt and pepper until a paste forms. Slowly pour in olive oil as you mix to combine. Pour into a small bowl and stir in the cheese and half-and-half.

Pull it Together

Cook pasta according to package directions. Drain and reserve the pasta water. Toss the pasta with a drizzle of olive oil and add the sauce, ladling on the pasta water as much as needed to fully coat the noodles and achieve desired thickness. Sprinkle with chopped rosemary or another herb of your choice.

Lemon Ricotta Pancakes

Screen Shot 2013-12-15 at 1.11.59 PMThe story behind my lemon ricotta pancake experiment — in other words, the magic of egg whites — also involves an at-home date with my “hubby,” if you will. I made these (from Williams & Sonoma’s Essentials of Breakfast and Brunch) for brunch on his birthday and, as a testament to how good and easy these are, these little flapjacks wound up being his birthday cake. Sadly, they far outshined my attempt at a blueberry pie (with my typical humility, let me assure you that pie is usually my thing and I blame it on my husband’s request for something intended to be eaten in July — I probably botched the use of frozen berries, I used a different recipe for crust and I tried to transport it to an Irish pub and then realized it was supposed to cool for several hours first — the thing was a half-baked, dribbly mess. But who cares? My sister-in-law was kind enough to bring cupcakes :)) Back to flapjacks. I think it’s great when ricotta cheese, lemon zest, and whipped egg whites turns something worthy of Denny’s into something worthy of, I dunno, Dennaes. It gives you a little lift, literally and figuratively speaking.

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 1/2 cups buttermilk
  • 2 large eggs, separated
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 3/4 cup ricotta cheese
  • 1 tablespoon grated lemon zest
  • 2 teaspoons unsalted butter, melted
  • Berries tossed with sugar, for serving

Prep the Batter

Whisk together flour, baking soda, and salt in a large bowl. In another bowl, whisk together buttermilk, egg yolks, sugar, ricotta, and lemon zest. Add the buttermilk mixture to the dry mixture and stir until combined. It can be a little lumpy.

Whip and Fold

Beat egg whites until soft peaks form (easiest, in m opinion, with a standing mixer on medium speed, whisk attachment, but can be done by hand). Carefully fold beaten egg whites into the ricotta mixture.

Fry in a Pan

Heat a large frying pan over medium heat until a drop of water sizzles and immediately evaporates. Brush with melted butter. Ladle 1/4 cup batter for each pancake into the pan and reduce heat to medium-low, cooking until small bubbles appear on top, about 4 minutes. Flip and cook until lightly browned on the second side, a few minutes longer.

Serve Hotcakes Hot

If you’re serving a crowd or just feel like being seamless and professional about your homemade pancakes, keep them warm in an oven heated to 250. (Don’t cover or they will get soggy.) Or be like me and microwave them as needed. The recipe makes about 16, 4-inch pancakes.

Screen Shot 2013-12-15 at 1.19.47 PMIf this wasn’t enough to seduce you, allow me to elaborate my thoughts on all this mildly caloric magic in “What Can I Make With Flour, Eggs, Pasta Sauce & Cheese”? Either way, I wish you a merry week of Christmas preparations or post-Hanukkah chillin.’ I think it would be cosy and merry if we all waited out Advent in a pared down, pile-of-grated-cheese, pillow-of-freshly-beaten egg whites kind of way, and called it Christmas magic.

[Photos: “Eggs,” paul goyette’s photostream, “Tagliatelle!”, Sebastian Mary’s photostream, “Lemon Ricotta Pancakes II,” Patent and the Pantry’s photostream, “Grated Parmesan,” FoodMayhem.com’s photostream]

 

Let Us Eat Cake

Screen Shot 2013-11-15 at 9.30.53 AMMy mom loves birthdays more than anyone else I know — other people’s, that is. More accurately, she loves the ingredients that make up a party: the people gathered together, the festivity, the memories to be made. She has spearheaded many a birthday party for her three kids, and even in my late 20s, my birthday is a thing, with gifts, cards and phone calls. There is no stopping the birthday bandwagon — it’s a love train bearing tokens of affection, full speed ahead. Let’s talk candy: if my mom’s good cheer and ebullience resemble a star bust, I can be more of a sour patch. Think “People’s Parties,” by Joni Mitchell, which speaks to the underwhelming way that we wallflowers like to socialize — listening, watching, feeling a connection to people through observation, but loathe to do too much talking. Except on random occasions in which we suddenly feel compelled to “be ourselves,” busting out a moon walk or a rendition of “Killing Me Softly” à la The Fugees, but that’s another story.

Screen Shot 2013-11-15 at 9.20.41 AMWallflower tendencies aside, it’s mom’s birthday this Saturday, the perfect occasion to celebrate her sense of spontaneity and fun, her ease among people, her “joie de vivre.” It’s her turn to be toasted, celebrated, and embarrassed by outpourings of affection. In fact, mom’s love of birthdays represent many of her endearing traits: her demonstrative, generous way with people, her appreciation of good food and company, her creativity. Being a birthday enthusiast (and an excellent cook), mom is quite naturally a believer in birthday cakes. And I’m bursting — almost as much as these pistachio profiteroles — to share some of them with you.

Screen Shot 2013-11-14 at 12.31.12 PMTake this lemon angel food cake by Ina Garten. Light, classic, plenty of surface area for pink frosting and sprinkles, mom would dig (into) it.

Screen Shot 2013-11-14 at 12.39.06 PMHow ‘bout mini pies, mum? One cook’s tedium is another cook’s playground, and these precious, slightly painstaking pie-bites are the kind of drawn-out, flour-dusted kitchen project that my mom whole-heartedly embraced when I was too young to execute them well. I’m sure it demanded patience, but it had the positive effect of cultivating a genuine, fearless love of cooking on my part. For example, we spent an entire summer of my childhood experimenting with pie and cobbler recipes, at my request. I don’t remember a single one, but to this day, pies are my favorite thing to bake.

Screen Shot 2013-11-15 at 8.43.05 AMAlso, mom wouldn’t bat an eye if I hypothetically owned a cookbook solely dedicated to the art of mini pies. (Don’t hate a girl for wanting to master 20 recipes for mini pies! Maybe they’ll land on your doorstep :)) Mom gets that cookbooks are not only instruction manuals, but books, as much for reading as they are for cooking. This is reflected in her massive cookbook collection, and her penchant for giving me books centered on the art of grilled cheese or french fries or…

Screen Shot 2013-11-14 at 12.54.02 PMCupcakes! She was all over that trend. I think coconut cupcakes take the cake on being festive, classy, and birthday appropriate. I made this version by Ina Garten (who else?) for a previous birthday. I happen to know that mom would appreciate a simple birthday sugar cookie. These are a Christmas tradition for us, a recipe from The Martha Stewart Baking Handbook that yields a phenomenal amount of dough. Like mom, it’s hard not to like them. They’re so darn sweet.

Things You Need
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Cream Butter & Sugar
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Add Eggs, Vanilla, Flour
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Flatten, Wrap, Refrigerate
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Roll it Out, Cut it Out

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Happy Birthday!

[Photos through Creative Commons Search or taken by me: moonlightbulb’s photostreamkimberlykv’s photostreamgrongar’s photostreampkingDesign’s photostream]

Potato/Pot-AH-to, Bread/Brioche

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At what point does the humble, wholesome, pleasant-tasting sweet potato reveal its inner potahto, from root vegetable to guilty pleasure?

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The obvious and correct answer is: when fried into chips. The word “fry” or “chips” may sound unhealthy, but so are desk jobs, cell phones, and breathing in certain cities, so I think we can fry up some sweet potatoes in vegetable oil, lightly salt them, and look the other way. As I enjoy the veggies of my labor, I’ll bask in food writer Michael Pollan’s assertion that  homemade chips are inevitably better for you than the store bought variety.

Sweet Potato Chips

Adapted from the potato chips recipe, Barefoot in Paris

Supplies/Ingredients
You need a heavy bottomed pot, paper towels, a big plate, a slotted spoon (or better yet, one of those wire “spiders”), either a mandolin or sharp chef’s knife + excellent knife skills, a vegetable peeler, about 3 medium sweet potatoes, your choice of oil, sea salt or kosher salt, & any herbs you want to add.

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Prep the potatoes. Set the mandolin on the thinnest blade (1/16”) and slice. Soak the slices in ice water for a few minutes. Drain the water, refill with new ice water, pat the slices dry, and soak the slices in ice water a second time. (This removes the starch, getting them nice and crispy.)

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Fill the pot with 2-3 inches of oil. Heat on medium high heat. I used vegetable oil as opposed to peanut or canola oil and it worked fine. You can tell when the oil is hot enough if the oil sizzles when you drop a potato slice in. Reduce the heat to medium, drop a batch of slices in, and then bring the heat back up to medium high. I set the timer for 3 minute increments but it took over 5 minutes per batch. Just keep your eye on it and don’t drift too far from the stove. Drain on paper towels and sprinkle with sea salt and any desired herbs. (Would be great dipped in guacamole or tsaziki.)

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Bread vs Brioche?

‘Tis a slippery slope, an existential dilemma, one that Marie Antoinette reportedly provoked when she said “qu’ils mangent de la brioche,” which actually means, “let them eat bread that is characterized by inordinate quantities of butter, honey, and eggs.” Bread? Cake? Eh. You say potato, I say potAHto.

Isn’t “quick bread”  a coy term for cake, just as brioche is dessert in a loaf pan? I recently had a craving for banana bread, only to stumble across a doppelganger recipe in the form of “Banana Caramel Cake” from The Martha Stewart Baking Handbook. Ah, hah! I am onto these silly semantics — bread, cake, same dif.

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Semantics aside, I savor the idea that turning  bread into cake is the difference between a few more eggs and some extra butter + sugar. There’s a reason to celebrate.

Banana Bread? Cake?

Adapted from Banana Caramel Cake, The Martha Stewart Baking Handbook

12 T. unsalted butter, room temp, plus more for pan
1 2/4 c. all-purpose flour
3/4 t. baking powder
1/2 t. baking soda
1/4 t. salt
1 1/2 very ripe bananas, mashed
3 T. sour cream or creme fraiche
1/2 t. vanilla extract
1/2 c. + 1/3 c. sugar
2 eggs, room temp
1 c. chocolate chips (optional)

Set Up: Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter a round cake pan and line bottom with parchment paper. Butter the parchment paper. Alternatively, divide batter into loaf pans.

Dry Ingredients + Bananas: Mix flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a medium bowl. In a small bowl, mash the bananas and stir in sour cream + vanilla.

Mix Together: Beat butter and sugar in an electric mixer, several minutes, until light and fluffy. Use a spatula to scrape down the sides of the bowl as needed. Add 2 eggs one at a time, beating after each addition. Add flour mixture in parts, with mixer on low speed, beating until just combined after each addition. Fold in the banana mixture using a spatula. Fold in chocolate chips, if using.

Pour the batter evenly into the pan, bake about 30-35 minutes until golden brown and cake tester/toothpick/fork comes out clean. Cool the pan on a wire rack for 20 minutes. Flip over on wire rack and peel off parchment paper. Re-invert and let cool completely.

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[Photos: IITA’s Image Library Phostream, prep photo from Marie the Bee’s photostream, Katy Stoddard’s photostream, Steven Depolo’s photostream]

Happy Father’s Day + Eating My Words

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I have recently been obsessed with bar cookie versions of more elaborate celebration cakes, e.g., red velvet cake bars or better yet, dulce de leche cheesecake bars. They have the cuteness factor of cupcakes, but more conveniently, they are made in one big pan.

For example, these dulce de leche cheesecake bars would have been perfect for my mentee’s birthday. What did I end up giving her? A card/hershey bar from CVS… I guess I’m holding out for her half-birthday?

Then I attended a going away party for my department head. Old habits die hard, along with my fantasy of casually elegant cheese cake bars. This time I stalked the net for something with a key lime twist. Predictably, Smitten Kitchen yielded cute eye candy, this time individual key lime cheesecakes made in cupcake tins. Eye candy it remained.

So I recycled these pecan shortbread cookies I hadn’t already eaten. (Less cute, but definitely worth making.)

Tomorrow is Father’s Day and I have now moved on to the idea of german chocolate cake bars, in honor of my dad’s favorite dessert. Oh, and the internet provides! In good faith, I even looked up how to properly package and mail homemade baked goods. Yet here I sit, typing words onto a screen, having typed grades and unit plans and e-mails onto a screen the entire day, because I’ve learned that food feels most like love when it is happily prepared, and dad, I think I hatched this idea a little too late. (My mixer has lately been erratic and I think I might end up crabby and covered in flour.)

There is a better writer than me, Adam Gopnik, author of Paris to the Moon, who describes this habit of spending inordinate mental energy imagining and planning meals, to the point that eating them is secondary. In a word, he characterizes it as French:

of all the leçons de choses I have absorbed in Paris, the most important has come from learning to cook. I cooked a bit in New York, Thanksgiving dinner and a filet mignon or two, and summers by the grill, like every American guy. But here I cook compulsively, obsessively, waking up with a plat in mind, balancing it with wine and side dishes throughout the working day (‘Do I dare pack a Brussels sprout?’) shopping, anticipating six o’ clock, waiting for the perfectly happy moment when I can begin, as one almost always does, no matter what one is cooking, by chopping onions.”

He goes on… and on… and one more time on…

Screen Shot 2013-11-02 at 2.17.12 PM“The beautiful part of cooking lies in the repetition, living the same principles, day after day: planning, shopping, chopping, roasting, eating, and then vowing, always, never again to start on something so ambitious again… until the dawn rises, with another dream of something else….

Screen Shot 2013-03-25 at 8.31.31 PM“Cooking, for middle-class, end-of-the-century people, is our only direct, not entirely debased line with the hermetic life, with Zen sitting, with just doing things without a thought. No wonder monks make good cheese…

alphabet soup kids pasta“Writing isn’t the transformation of stuff into things. It is just the transformation of symbols into other symbols, as if one read recipes out loud for dinner, changing the proportions… Writing is a business of saying things about stuff and saying things about things and then pretending that you have cooked one into the other…”

And yet, at the risk of sounding apologetic, and notwithstanding the fact that really delicious german chocolate bars trump esoteric thoughts about cooking, the words do count, I think.

Gopnik also writes about how French people have a  gift for abstraction, extrapolating on the minutiae of life and making it fodder for philosophical debate. In my mind, German chocolate cake symbolizes much more about my dad than his sweet tooth.

Favorite dessert? German chocolate cake. Career/calling? Architect. Hobby? Piano/organ. Bedtime ritual? Set out the cereal bowls for breakfast. My dad is predictable in great, very specific ways — he makes reliably tasty pancakes; he does not fancy breakfast for dinner…

But also in more abstract ways, including his stalwart qualities of being kind, insightful, upbeat, and taking a broad-minded and balanced view of all people and situations. Some people say that I am my father’s daughter. I wish my sweet tooth were more equally focused, along with a few other things, but I’ll take it 🙂

Here’s to a sweet Father’s day, in gratitude for all the world’s deserving dads.

[Photo Credits: “Cake, German Chocolate,” sea turtle’s photo stream and “Rows of Buddha,” shack’s photo stream]

Best of Citrus Part 1

Screen Shot 2013-02-05 at 4.00.21 PMRemember the scene from Little Women when Amy nabs a large orange on Christmas morning? She clutches it possessively until her more noble minded sisters set out to distribute Christmas breakfast to the poor. I can still hear Kirsten Dunst reciting Amy’s line in a greedy little whisper, “Butter! Oh, isn’t butter divinity? Oh god thank you for this breakfast.”

There is something about citrus — we’re talking oranges, lemon, lime, grapefruit, tangerine, clementine, mandarin, kumquat — that inspires thanksgiving and connotes prosperity. Citrus is certainly glamorous – colorful, aromatic… Ah, let me count the ways I love thee…

As the worn-out saying goes, money doesn’t grow on trees — but citrus does 🙂 Add to its abundance the fact of its impeccable timing of being in season during the winter (in the United States, at least). So, to brighten up your gray skies or give a little pep to your sluggish internal clock, or, if you’re already feeling sunny like Florida, in the simple spirit of thanksgiving, allow me to share my zest for citrus with a few good recipes worth trying:

1. Citrus salad with feta and mint

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This is a sleek and simple salad to throw together for a dinner party (speaking of sleek, avocado would be a tasty addition…)

If you’re hosting brunch and want to emphasize breakfast flavors 1) forgo the feta 2) dress your mixed citrus with some granulated sugar, snipped mint, and lime zest, adapted from “lime-mint sugar” from Williams-Sonoma’s Essentials of Breakfast & Brunch. Here is the original, summer fruit salad recipe:
2. Lime-mint sugar

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  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 2 tablespoons minced fresh mint*
  • 2 teaspoons grated lime zest**
  • 2 each nectarines and peaches, halved, pitted, and cut into slices 1/2 inch thick
  • 1/2 cantaloupe or other melon, seeded, peeled, and cut into 1/2-inch cubes
  • 1 cup seedless grapes
  • Juice of 1 lime

In a small bowl, stir together the sugar, minced mint, and lime zest. Set aside. In a bowl, combine the nectarines, peaches, and melon. Cut the grapes in half, and add to the bowl. Drizzle the fruit with the lime juice and stir gently to coat. Sprinkle with the sugar mixture and turn the fruit once or twice to coat evenly.

*To prevent the mint leaves from discoloring when cut, strip them with scissors rather than mince them with a knife.

**Make the lime-mint sugar no more than an hour before serving the salad, as the aromatic oil in the zest quickly loses its potency.

3. Lemon sugar snaps

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I don’t have a problem with adding table salt to my food, but I have a habit of peppering almost any baked good with extra citrus zest or juice. (Tip: orange zest/juice is the KEY to unbelievable pie filling! Use the suggested lemon zest/juice and add some orange! You won’t believe it!) There has to be some method to my madness, because evidently, Martha Stewart agrees. This recipe for “lemon sugar snaps” from The Martha Stewart Baking Handbook is a lip smacking endorsement for lemon infused baked goods:

MAKES ABOUT 4 DOZEN These cookies have a delicate texture and light, fresh taste.

  • 1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon cream of tartar
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 sticks (1 cup) unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1 cup sugar, plus more for coating
  • 1 large egg
  • Freshly grated zest of 3 lemons
  • 1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice

In a bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda, cream of tartar, and salt; set aside. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter and sugar on medium speed until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Add the egg and lemon zest and juice; beat until combined. Add the flour mixture; beat until just combined, scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed. Transfer dough to a bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and refrigerate for at least 2 hours or overnight.

Screen Shot 2013-02-05 at 4.16.51 PMPreheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line two large baking sheets with parchment paper. Place sugar in a shallow bowl. Shape leveled tablespoons of dough into 1-inch balls. Roll balls in sugar to coat completely, and place about 3 inches apart on the prepared baking sheets. Bake, rotating sheets halfway through, until the edges just begin to turn golden brown, 12 to 15 minutes. Transfer cookies to a wire rack to cool completely. Cookies can be kept in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 5 days.

I’m bursting with enthusiasm. (Did you just laugh?) For more where this came from, visit Best of Citrus Part 2.
[Photos: “Citrus,” blackeiffel’s photostream, Smitten Kitchen image according to photo guidelines, Uwe Hermann’s photostream, Florian Maul’s photostream, & pinprick’s photostream, “Lemon,” Chugy’s photostream]

Best of Citrus Part 2

Orange chocolate chunk cake

This orange + chocolate + chocolate ganache cake comes from Barefoot Contessa Parties, adapted above by Deb Perelman of Smitten Kitchen. We’re talking 1/4 cup orange zest + 1/4 cup orange juice flavoring some serious chocolate.

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Yogurt grapefruit cake

Here is a yogurt grapefruit cake/sweet bread that Deb Perelman tweaked from Ina Garten. I appreciate her consideration of how to capture grapefruit’s more elusive flavor in a baked good. I made it a few years ago, and took her suggestion of making two mini loaves. Somehow things are more scrumptious when they are miniature.

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Linguini with shrimp scampi

This lemon shrimp scampi recipe is one of my favorites. Lemon, garlic, butter, and white wine have a little party in a frying pan…

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Lemon risotto

It was a sad day when Martha Stewart said the thing she missed most in prison was lemons. And yet, not a disingenuous one — the woman makes a fabulous lemon risotto. This was the first (and only?) risotto recipe I have ever attempted. For anyone who is intimated by risotto, it is a doable and delicious place to start.

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And finally, here are some citrus recipes that I have tested with eyes only. Let me know if you try them. They come from much-respected sources that as a rule, leave very little desired for the inexpert home cook.

Roasted Citrus Wedges

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Serve as a side with waffles… or pork loin…or something

Lime Glazed Cookies

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These cookies remind me of Sanibel Island, Florida. And Martha Stewart usually gets cookies about right.

Tagliatelle with Prosciutto and Orange
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This last recipe from Epicurious is calling my name like a long, sun-drenched nap on the beach… Seems like a  pretty elegant take on comfort food?

If you have reached the end of this ridiculously long post, I can only assume that you share a taste for what is inherently bright, sour, and subtle about lemons/limes/oranges/grapefruits, especially in these slushy winter months.

Screen Shot 2013-02-05 at 4.08.12 PMAs I was aggressively chipping ice off my dashboard last week, following ongoing TV and radio coverage of the impending snow storm, I thought of Audrey from “Little Shop of Horrors,” crooning campily for “Somewhere That’s Green.” On that note, I wish you plenty of something green (or yellow/orange/pink) and healthy dose of vitamin Deee-licious.

[Photos: Marcus Nilsson, frankfarm’s photostream, WGyuri’s photostream, & Chugy’s photostreampoopoorama’s photostreamDaniel Slaughter’s photostreamjmackinnell’s photostreampcarpen’s photostream]

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