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When you haven’t seen the sun for days on end and last summer’s soft fruits are a distant memory, citrus can definitely brighten the winter blahs. Tangerines stuff our stockings at Christmas; I love the teeny tiny ones–sooo easy to peel and their segments so easy to pull apart. Orange marmalade brightens up our morning toast. I even love to adorn my dining table with a big, sunny bowl of bright lemons and tangerines.
For centuries citrus has had a medicinal role, too–fighting off winter colds, tarting up hot, brandy-laced toddies, and, combined with honey in lemon cough drops, soothing dry throats.
Citrus is so versatile, being totally edible from the juice to the flesh to the peel. Citrus is a perfect accouterment for those cutting down on sodium in their diets. A squeeze of lemon or lime can bring out the flavor of food just as salt does. The tart juice also brightens sauces or vinaigrettes, and a quick squeeze of lemon brings a bit of sunshine to a simple glass of water.
Citrus skin brings you its big-flavored zest to use in baking, marinades and dressings. Strips are twisted and swiped around the rim of martinis and Manhattans, the skin’s oils are used in extracts to flavor cakes and candies and cookies. Citrus peel is even delicious on its own; candied orange, lemon or grapefruit rinds make a nice little something to nibble on after a big dinner.
No longer just the generic “orange” to meet the lunchbox fruit obligation, a plethora of specialty citrus varieties is available during short seasons between September and mid-March or later. There are so many types nowadays that you can try a different one every week of the winter! You could even have a tasting.
I’ve included 2 recipes this week – both are tasty tasty! If you’re an oyster lover you’ll want to try my recipe for Oysters on the Half Shell with Citrus Splash- made with pink grapefruit and tangerine the splash really lets the oyster itself come through – even oyster purists will love this tangy bivalve adornment. And Orange Pound Cake with Macerated Oranges & Orange Flower Cream – incorporates everything orange in this lovely dessert … from zest to flesh to floral orange water!
And don’t forget those wonderful orange pomanders you used to make as a kid! Star with a nice thick-skinned orange – stick it with whole cloves until it is totally encased. Nothing brings back fonder scent memories than one of these hanging in my closet or sitting on a dresser. If you’ve never made one, you should. It provides a bit of aromatherapy, and sitting, poking in the cloves can be quite relaxing…
Copyright © 2009 by Kathy Casey
Oysters On The Half Shell with Citrus Splash!
Splash makes 1 cup. It will top about 2-3 dozen oysters.
Sweet and tart bits of winter citrus are a terrific contrast to briny oysters.
When serving freshly shucked oysters on a buffet, lay them on pine or spruce boughs for a stunning presentation. Depending on your or your guests’ tastes, count from 4-5 oysters per person as a starter or 3-4 per person for a buffet.
Very fresh oysters in the shell
1 pink or ruby red grapefruit
1 small shallot, minced
1 Tbsp champagne vinegar
1 Tbsp thinly sliced fresh chives
tiny pinch red chili flakes (depending upon how hot you like)
To shuck and serve the oysters:
Rinse the oysters and scrub the shells with a vegetable brush to remove any debris. Refrigerate until ready to shuck. Right before serving, shuck the oysters, discarding the top shell and inspecting the oysters for any bits of broken shell, picking it out carefully. Set the oysters on a platter or individual plates spread with crushed ice and bits of pine or spruce boughs if using. Top each oyster with about 1 – 1 1/2 teaspoons of the Citrus Splash and pass the remainder, or if serving buffet style set the Splash out in a small bowl so guests themselves can spoon a little over each oyster.
To make the citrus splash:
With a sharp knife peel grapefruit and tangerine just deep enough to expose the fruit, removing all white pulp. Section the citrus over a bowl to catch the juices, then finely chop fruit sections. Return fruit to the bowl and add remaining ingredients.
Copyright © 2009 by Kathy Casey Food Studios®
Orange Pound Cake with Macerated Oranges & Orange Flower Cream
Note: remove the zest from the oranges for use in the cake before proceeding to make the macerated oranges. I like to use a microplaner for zesting the oranges or use a potato peeler and peel the orange part (zest) of the outside off /with no white pith. Then finely mince it.
Makes 6 servings
Macerated Oranges & Glaze
3 very large or 4 small oranges, (or use 2 regular oranges and 2 blood oranges for a spectacular look and taste)
2 Tbsp Cointreau or Grand Marnier (optional)
1/3 cup fresh orange juice
1/3 cup sugar
3/4 cup heavy whipping cream
1 Tbsp sugar
1/2 tsp orange flower water *
1 cup butter
2 Tbsp finely minced orange zest
1 cup sugar
1 tsp vanilla
1 1/2 tsp orange flower water
2 Tbsp orange juice
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
Preheat oven to 325 degrees F.
To make the macerated oranges and the orange glaze:
Cut a thin slice off the ends of each orange, then holding the orange cut-side down on a cutting board, cut the rind off of the orange all the way around, using downwards cutting motions. After you have cut away all the rind from the oranges, slice them in 1/4-inch slices. Place the oranges in a large, shallow glass or stainless bowl or baking dish. Sprinkle with the Cointreau or Grand Marnier. Meanwhile, in a small sauce pan combine the orange juice and sugar, bring to a boil over high heat and boil 1 minute. Let cool, then pour half of the orange syrup over the sliced oranges. Cover oranges with plastic wrap and let marinate refrigerated at least 30 minutes and up to 4 hours. Reserve the remaining orange syrup for finishing the cake.
To make the orange cream:
In a chilled mixing bowl, mix together the cream, sugar and orange flower water. Whip the cream until it is just softly whipped and soft peaks are forming. Refrigerate until needed and rewhip slightly if needed before serving.
To make the cake:
With an electric mixer cream the butter and orange zest until very fluffy in a large bowl. Slowly add the sugar. Then continue creaming for 3 minutes. Beat in eggs one at time until well beaten in, scraping down the sides of the bowl often. Then add the vanilla, orange flower water and orange juice and combine. With the mixer on low speed slowly add the flour, baking powder and salt to the creamed butter egg mixture. Mix only until just combined. Do not overmix at this point. Place the batter in a prepared (greased and floured) 1 1/2 quart (4 1/2-inch x 8 1/2-inch) loaf pan. Bake for about 1 hour and 15 minutes or until cake tests done. Let cool in pan 5 minutes, then with a long wooden skewer poke cake at 1/2-inch intervals all over. Drizzle the cake, still in the pan, with the remaining half of the orange syrup. Let set at least 1 hour before serving.
To serve the dessert:
Slice a very thin slice of cake off both ends; eat it or save it for a snack. Then cut the cake into 12 even slices. On each of 6 large dinner plates arrange 2 of the cake slices, overlapping slightly. Divide the macerated oranges evenly over each plate of cake. Drizzle any juice around and over the cake slices. Dollop each serving with the Orange Cream.
* Orange flower water is available in Middle Eastern grocery stores and well-stocked supermarkets.
Copyright © 2009 by Kathy Casey Food Studios®