Sunday, March 7, 2010

Oranges Are Still In Season

There is something magical about peeling an orange in public. The fragrance is powerful enough to entice co-workers to stop in smiling and fellow students to wander over from across the quad.  March marks the end of citrus season.  Get your hands on one last bag of these beauties and add them to every meal while they are still at their best and a great value. 

Breakfast: Nothing beats freshly squeezed orange juice.  With a little more time, try French Toast with Microwave Orange Compote.  French Toast doesn’t take much longer than scrambling eggs.  This recipe has no sugar in the egg dip since the orange compote is quite sweet.  The compote tastes a lot like high quality marmalade and takes about 20 minutes to make.  You can prepare it a day or two ahead.  The rest comes together really quickly, even on weekdays.

French Toast with Microwave Orange Compote
Serves 4

1 orange
1/2 lemon
1/4 cup water
1 1/2 cups sugar
8 slices bread
4 eggs
3/4 cup milk
pinch salt
1 tablespoon butter
1 cup ricotta cheese

Make Orange Compote
Cut oranges and lemon in quarters and remove pulp.  Discard seeds.  Mash pulp with water in a large microwave-proof glass bowl (like PirexR).  Slice fruit skins (with pulp) paper thin and add to bowl.  Stir in 1/2 the sugar.  Cover loosely and cook on high 5 minutes, checking half-way through to stir.  Add remaining sugar and cook at half-power 10 minutes, checking at least 2 times to stir.  Lower power if sugar syrup is boiling to rapidly.  Allow compote to cool uncovered while you prepare French toast. If not using immediately, cover and refrigerate when cool.

Make French Toast
Mix egg, milk and salt in a shallow dish or pie plate.  Heat a non-stick skillet over medium heat and cover lightly with a small amount of the butter.  Briefly soak each piece of bread in egg mixture on both sides and fry in skillet until browned on both sides.  As each piece is cooked, place in a warm oven (250˚F)  covered loosely with tin foil. 

Mix 1/2 cup orange compote into ricotta.  Divide ricotta-orange mixture in fourths and spread over four slices of French toast.  Top with remaining four slices of toast and slice on the diagonal.  Serve with extra orange compote. 

Lunch: I once spent a week on the beaches of Spain’s southern coast eating nothing but roasted chicken and blood oranges.  It was years before blood oranges made it to our shores and now that they are more available you can create a sophisticated chicken salad in the same vein.  Use regular oranges if blood oranges are not available or look below par. 

Orange Vinaigrette Chicken Salad
Serves 2 generously
1 orange, cut in half
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil (try a Spanish one)
2 teaspoons apple cider vinegar
1 tablespoon freshly chopped parsley
Dash salt
1/8 teaspoon ground black pepper

2 cups cooked chicken, cut in chunks
1/3 cup sliced celery
1/4 cup sliced almonds
  1. Juice one of the orange halves into a small bowl and add next five ingredients, olive oil though black pepper.  
  2. Slice orange sections from remaining 1/2 orange.  
  3. Combine chicken with  orange sections, celery and almonds in a second bowl.  
  4. Pour vinaigrette over chicken mixture and toss well.  
  5. Wrap chicken salad in a whole wheat tortilla or a lettuce cup.

Orange-Red Pepper Pork Chops
Great on loin chops or pork tenderloin.  If the weather cooperates make this for your inaugural spring grill out.  Serve with corn bread and a big salad.  

Juice of 1 orange
1 tablespoon honey
1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
1/4 teaspoon each red pepper ,black pepper and salt.
6 loin chops or 1 pork tenderloin

  1. Combine orange juice, honey, vinegar and spices.  Pour over pork, cover and refrigerate (or place chops in a resealable bag).  
  2. Marinate 6 chops at least 4 hours or overnight. 
  3. Discard marinade.
  4. Grill or pan fry over pork low heat to control over- charring from sugar in marinade. 

Snacks: Many believe that the smell of citrus is energizing making it a wonderful late afternoon snack.  A nice pairing with an orange is cottage cheese – a complete snack that will hold you until dinner.  Dark chocolate also goes well with oranges. 

If you don’t like the feeling of orange peel under your nails, use a pairing knife to coax away the skin and pith.  To do this simply, imagine the orange is a globe.  First cut away the “poles” by scoring around the top and bottom just to the point where you feel the softer pulp.  Pull the top and bottom skin off to leave the middle girth of the orange skin.  To peel this easily, score along longitudinal lines at several intervals.  You will be able to pull sections of peel away leaving a neatly peeled whole orange.  Pull apart the segments and enjoy or slice your snack into large chunks to enjoy later. 
My friend Evie’s grandmother, who grew up in Poland, taught her to peel an orange this way.  It is neat and elegant and always reminds of the formal enjoyment of fruit that I witnessed as a teenager in Europe.  Fruit was expensive and savored. It was never consumed thoughtlessly.  A snack is a nice way to take a break in your day—Make it a real break with a more formal snack and you’ll return to your afternoon tasks more regenerated. 

Dessert: My sister has been known to steam holiday citrus fruit cakes in orange cups previously poached in an orange fruit syrup.  Try this much faster Orange Cake. It also delivers a bright and intense orange flavor. 

Our Orange Cake
1 orange
5 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 cup sugar
1 egg
1 1/2 cups flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup milk
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup confectionary sugar
optional: 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

  1. Grate the rind off the fruit.
  2. Grease loaf pan or  tin for 6 large muffins.
  3. Cream butter and sugar.  Mix in egg.
  4. Combine flour, baking powder and salt. 
  5. Add flour mixture, milk, orange rind and vanilla extract to batter. Mix well to combine thoroughly.  Pour batter into loaf pan or muffin tin,
  6. Bake at 350F for 40 to 45 minutes for the loaf, 25-30 minutes for large muffins or until a knife inserted in center comes out clean and cake pulls away from sides of pan.
  7. When the loaf comes out of the oven, pick it with a few times with the tip of the knife or a tooth pick. Squeeze the juice from half the fruit over the cake.
  8. When cool, turn cake out of pan.
  9. Make glaze: Mix together juice of remaining 1/2 orange, confectionary sugar and lemon juice.  When cake is cool, drizzle over top of cake/muffins.