Alright folks…first in line from the Thanksgiving spread is this humdinger of a recipe from the pages of Martha Stewart Living…yes, I’m one of them! I’ve been collecting these issues for years now, and, truly, most of the missing issues from my stacks are from the first year… I figure that I’ll have lots of projects to keep me busy in my old age… but, once in awhile, I notice a recipe that gets my immediate attention, as this one did! It reminds me of the best of what fusion cuisine has to offer: a beautiful bridge between two or three cuisines that stands as a testament to a universal love of good food, fresh ingredients, and hope for a peaceful future.
Although I hardly consider myself to be a food expert in any way, I have seen a few things. And in this little, brightly-coloured side-dish (which is really just fine on its own as a healthy snack!), I am reminded of the orange-walnut salads of Morrocco, the spicy-sweet-sour yum of Thailand, and the chaats and fresh chatnis of India, all combined with an ingredient hailing from the northern part of the globe: cranberries. (Wisconsin, the state I live in is, by the way, the U.S.’s largest producer of these nutritious darlings- so I have no excuse do I?) I made one small change in the original recipe though: instead of peeling and de-membraning the oranges before dicing, I washed them well and used the whole fruit. Certainly this makes for a more rugged salad, but then, there are far too many anti-oxidants (and flavour!) in citrus peels for them to go to waste, so if you feel you must peel, then please do so…
2 C fresh cranberries
1/4 C red onion, minced
1 jalapeno (or other mild to medium-hot green chile), seeded and minced (just one?!)
2 t fresh ginger, grated, or sliced thinly and then cut into shreds
2 stalks of celery, sliced 1/4″ lengthwise and then across into 1/4″ dice
1/2 C sugar (more or less to taste)
2 T lime juice
1/4 C fresh spearmint leaves, sliced into ribbons
1/4 pecans, freshly roasted and chopped coarsely (Walnuts and hickory-nuts are closely-related, so these make a fine substitute)
1)Rinse the cranberries, drain and place in a food processor. Pulse a few times until roughly chopped, or chop by hand roughly into 1/4″ pieces. Transfer these to a large mixing-bowl.
2)Wash the oranges well and dry. Using a sharp knife on a clean board, slice them into 1/4″ rounds, then stack a few together at a time and cut into 1/4″ strips, and then crosswise into 1/4″ dice. Empty these and any juice that has escaped into the bowl.
3)Add the minced onion, jalapeno, chopped celery and shreds of ginger to the contents of the bowl. Mix well.
4)Stir together the sugar and lime juice until somewhat combined and pour this over the salad. Toss well, adjust sweet-sour balance to taste, and then chill for at least an hour or two, mixing well once again before serving. (The flavours continue to blend and mellow as days pass, and even now, at day four past the first serving, the leftovers are quite lovely…and…*munch munch*…gone.)
5)Just before serving, sprinkle the nuts and ribbons of mint-leaves over the top.
I thought I’d make up something light, cooling and refreshing for those of you who are experiencing warm weather already, or will soon enough. Here? Well, yesterday it was 75 F(24 C), today is another story….it’s 42 F(6 C) as I write. Wisconsin is like that…
A friend and I took a Sunday drive a few days ago- on Sunday in fact! It was one of those days that charm me to leave the city. A light mist was in the air, and, as you might know, that this can cause the familiar to suddenly look serene, a bit eerie, and well….unfamiliar. It occurred to me that the fog would be thicker- and hence, more dramatic- near the “big pond”: Lake Michigan. Having lived on the lakeshore for nearly three years taught me, at the least, these three things: 1.humid days bring foggy nights and mornings, so plan to go slow if you plan on going anywhere. 2. there are a lot of sand-polished stones, driftwood, and other odd finds on the beach, and 3. some of the best food to be had is in tiny towns situated at the crossings of winding back roads you never knew existed.
One such town is called Slovan. It literally is in the middle of nowhere, yet the town has for decades been well-known, from the Devil’s Door down to Two Rivers, and west to certain knowing residents around Green Bay. Its main attraction is a supper club which, besides serving great traditional local food, hosts spirited polka dances with live bands during the summer, and a good-sized dance hall built just for it. As they regularly have a famous Sunday brunch, I decided to call up a friend of mine, who I knew had been itching to go and sample their offerings…
So off we went, leisurely coasting along rural roads through the thickening mist, up and down rolling hills, gazing out at the shimmering air, at the the forests and farmland that vanished into grey in the distance, all of this lit by a silver sun shining in the eastern sky. A cow here and there appeared out of nowhere at the side of the road and disappeared just as quickly. But no time to stop and talk this morning. On and on we went.
When we arrived and pulled crunchily into the gravel-covered parking lot, I noticed at the far end, near a few scant trees, two cats: one black and one grey-striped, lolling about together at the far side of the lot. They seemed to be very happy about something. With my brow furrowed by curiosity, I parked the car and stepped out into the hazy sunlight, my friend lazily following. We stretched just a bit, closing the car-doors quietly. I checked my pockets out of habit for my wallet and keys and peered over at the cats. Their tails twitched contentedly, but they had not yet taken the slightest notice of us out-of-towners. I took a step toward them, then another, one foot slowly following the other. Crunch……. crunch….. crunch…….. cru… both cats suddenly turned toward me in unison, eyes bright, unblinking and inquisitive. I halted, and motioned for my friend to do the same. I blinked a “hello” to them, and bent down on my knees to beckon them over. With little hesitation they strolled over, sniffed my outstretched hand and gaily “marked” me with grins and whiskered cheeks. Obviously they had frequent human contact. They soon thought my friend was acceptable interactive material too….and after a few minutes of this giddy welcoming party, we figured out what the source of their joy was. They were one of each gender, and in deepest love with each other, gliding against each other across the gravel, circling, inseparable as they moved. We had a hard time breaking away from our new, amorous friends, but the mist was clearing in the strengthening sunlight, and we had a few dishes to investigate.
A Syrup of Spring Mist
2 C fresh-squeezed lime juice
the zest(green part only) of 6 limes or 1/4 C, whichever comes first
1 1/2 C white sugar, more or less, to taste
a 1″ piece of ginger, peeled and very thinly sliced
2 sprigs of spearmint, washed and bruised by squeezing gently
6 very thin slices of green chile
18 whole white peppercorns
a pinch of salt
a pinch of citric acid/sour salt
1)Place everything but the mint in a small pan and slowly bring to boil. Remove from heat and toss in mint. Cover pan with a lid and allow to stand until cool.
2)Strain through a fine sieve and store in the refrigerator.
This can be:
1.mixed with carbonated water in ratio of about 1:5 for a refreshing lime soda,
2.mixed with tequila and triple sec(or other orange liqueur) and served over ice in a salt-rimmed glass for Margaritas,(2 parts tequila, 1 part lime syrup, 1 part triple sec)
3. mixed with an equal part of rum, diluted to taste with water and ice and finished with a dash of nutmeg for planter’s punch, or
4. diluted with plain ice water and served with shaved or crushed ice for Turkish-style sherbet.
It occurred to me much later, as we headed back home in the now bright sun, windows open, fresh and scented air streaming through the car, how Brahma indeed is manifested strongly in these days of erratic weather and awakening life. Those two friendly felines will probably have a new family to raise by the end of spring…it might be worth going back in two months to find out.
For two days I have been trying to decide what recipe to honor as the first post here. It ought to be something Indian, obviously. Maybe something using elaichi? Yes, yes of course, I thought. I’ll make one of the more tedious and skill-requiring Indian sweets that’ll blow everyone away…if it turns out. Or perhaps a Parsi dish fragrantly splashed at the end with freshly-pounded cardamom and coriander leaves… Or shall I attempt a new recipe I’ve recently acquired and am eagerly waiting to try? It’s been a rough two days with these thoughts of a perfect primary post added to the list of worries already in my head. And it shouldn’t be. This is a place to unwind and take a few minutes to celebrate my interest and enjoyable toil in the kitchen!
On a moments-ago whim, I finally decided to post what I was currently working on. What a novel idea eh? “Write what I’m familiar with…” is ringing in my head from somewhere. From someone. From where? From who? Ah! I know! Directly from the well-oiled mouth of a certain eccentric english professor I took a class or two from in my later high school years. He really was an oddball! Intelligent, kind, and brimming with wisdom that he earned along with his deeply-etched laugh lines, and spontaneous to the point of unbridaled hilarity in his classes; he loved teaching. He also loved to eat oranges when he was between classes. And to do this properly, he must have thought, one must sit on an office chair in the doorway of one’s classroom and chuck the peels at anyone who happened to be passing by. Oh, the janitors must have loved him dearly…those peels ended up all over the school from kids kicking them along the hallways like stones every time a class ended. I saw old “Doc” at the downtown “farmer’s”/open market a few years ago. He was sitting down, dressed in short pants with suspenders over a white shirt, feather in cap, gaily tooting a pennywhistle as a member of an Irish folk band… I had to close and open my eyes a few times to make sure my vision wasn’t deceiving me. It wasn’t. Not bad for near 90!
Every time I peel an orange I think of him. After that, I set thoughts of him aside and get back to business!
This confection can be made in several, but very similar ways, and there are recipes stretching from the middle east and outward. This particular method I adapted from a Greek recipe I found years ago, which worked better than others I had tried and I retain with few changes. In Greek this is known as “portokali glace”(glazed oranges); it is made with other citrus fruits as well. While often used as an ingredient in other Greek confections, it is also a sweet in its own right. I have found it quite elegant to serve with tea or coffee as an optional light sweetener, or to quietly relish between sips. If you’re clever about it, you can accomplish both! It can also be used to make cookies, cakes, and also to decorate cakes by either cutting the pieces after they are candied, or by using tiny cookie-cutters beforehand. Its list of uses is near endless, and I have my suspicions that it ends up in savory dishes as well…
This recipe also produces, as a by-product, a flavoured syrup when all is said and done. This need not be discarded. I am sure that, with a little imagination, an excellent use could be found! After all, isn’t it nice to know that all of those citrus peels don’t need to be chucked down the hallway?
Candied Citrus Peels
a quantity of citrus peels
light/white corn syrup OR fructose crystals(optional)
1)Prepare the peels: rinse the exterior coloured zest well. With a sharp knife, remove any traces of fruit pulp and membrane from the interior and discard, but leave the white part of the peel fairly intact, more or less. Cut the peel into half-inch (one cm) strips.
2)Remove the bitterness: place prepared peels in a sauce-pan and cover with cold water. Over medium heat, bring to boil. Immediately drain. Repeat this procedure 2 more times for most citrus fruits(3x total); for pomelos, grapefruit and thick-skinned oranges, repeat this 3 more times(4x total). This procedure removes most of the bitter flavour in the peel.
3)Soften the peels: cover the peels once again with cold water and bring to boil, but this time lower the heat and simmer 45 minutes. Drain.
4)Add the required amount of syrup: take the softened peels and replace in the pan. Now, you’ll have to guage yourself how much syrup (sugar and water) you will need, as the final volume has many variables depending on what type of fruit you are using, what variety, and how much peel remains after cleaning. I suggest adding sugar and water of the correct ratio in steps. This ratio is 2:1 sugar to water. So, for every cup of sugar, you will add one-half cup of water. Add enough so that, after the sugar is dissolved, the peels move quite freely. Then, for every cup of sugar that you have added, add 1 T of corn syrup(or 3 t granular fructose). This ingredient is optional, but it gives a better texture to the final product.
5)Glazing the peels: over medium heat, bring the peels, sugar and water to a boil. Adjust syrup if necessary, and boil 10 minutes. Turn off heat, and, when the bubbling stops, cover the pan and let it stand for 24 hours.
Do this twice more(3x total), bringing it to boil for 10 minutes and then letting it stand for 24 hours.
6)Finishing: after the last resting period is finished, gently heat the mixture once again to liquify the now-thick syrup. Pour the contents through a wire sieve, collecting the syrup that drains and using it elsewhere. Let the peels drain for 6-8 hours, turning now and then with a spoon for the first hour to allow the syrup to run off.
7)Drying and storing: take the now-candied peels(they should be fairly translucent and beautiful in sunlight) and spread them on waxed or parchment paper to dry the surfaces for a day or two, turning once or twice. If you have a fine wire rack, this is all the easier(easier on the eco-system as well). Store in a sealed container at room temperature, or, if you like, these can be dusted with granulated white sugar before storing, as I have done, to keep them from sticking together.