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Let It Melt Away

Screen Shot 2013-04-23 at 2.10.10 PMIt’s almost automatic for me, tuning into NPR on my commute home. I’m a bit of a news junkie, and my job(s) involve a lot of driving. Unexpected tragedies like the Boston Marathon bombing can shake you out of the comfortable ritual of news consumption. This event was unexpected, incoherent, if nothing else, an impetus to pay closer attention to each other and the many forces at work in every individual. My heart goes out to the victims, the spectators, and even the perpetrators who are suffering right now. I’m sure that the healing process will require many small, tedious steps, putting one foot in front of the other. This recipe is one small token of solidarity.

Lemon Meltaways

Adapted from Smitten Kitchen Key Lime Meltaways

12 tablespoons (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temp
1 cup confectioners’ sugar
Grated zest of 4 tiny or 2 large lemons
2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
1 3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour (aka 2 cups minus 2 tablespoons)
2 tablespoons cornstarch
1/4 teaspoon salt

Measure Your Ingredients

  1. Measure butter and 1/3 cup sugar and put in bowl of electric mixer.
  2. Measure out lemon juice/zest and vanilla and set aside. In a medium bowl, measure and whisk together flour, cornstarch, and salt.

Mix It Up

  1. Cream butter and 1/3 cup sugar in bowl of electric mixer until light and fluffy. Add lemon juice, zest, and vanilla; beat until fluffy.
  2. Add flour/cornstarch/salt mixture to butter mixture and beat on low speed until combined.
  3. Shape dough into two, 1 1/4 inch diameter logs and chill for at least 1 hour.

Melt It Away

  1. Heat oven to 350 degrees. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper. Place remaining 2/3 cups sugar in a resealable plastic bag. Slice logs into 1/4-inch-thick rounds. Place on baking sheets, about 1 inch apart.
  2. Bake cookies until barely golden, about 15 minutes. Transfer cookies to a wire rack to cool slightly, just three or four minutes. While still warm, place cookies in the sugar-filled bag; toss to coat. Bake or freeze remaining dough. Store baked cookies in an airtight container for up to 2 weeks.
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[Photos: “Key Lime Meltaways,” Rennings flickr photostream]

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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