Oranges, lemons, limes and grapefruits remind me of warmth; perhaps that’s why when I walk through the produce aisle and pass the citrus fruits, it perks me up during the doldrums of winter. I don’t know if it is because these fruits remind me of the Florida sunshine where so much of these crops grow; color experts agree that the color orange radiates warmth and energy. As Frank Sinatra once said, “Orange is the happiest of colors.” Tae Yun Kim writes, in her book, “The First Element: Secrets to Maximizing Your Energy,” “Orange strengthens your emotional body, encouraging a general feeling of joy, well-being, and cheerfulness.”
Whatever the reason, oranges and other citrus fruits have an appeal to me, especially this time of year. And, adding a little sunshine to meals is made easy with this recent addition to my cookbook collection, “Orange Appeal: Savory & Sweet,” by Jamie Schler (2017, Gibbs-Smith, $24.99). She has dissected the orange, capturing the essence of the fruit. She explores the wide variety of the fruit, zesting, juicing, peeling and drying oranges. It doesn’t stop there, with explanations of using orange liqueurs and extracts.
With the juicing craze, the popularity of dehydrating fruits and vegetables, and so many contemporary recipes use orange zest and peel, she has you covered.
The introduction begins with a well-known quote: “A day without orange juice is like a day without sunshine.” Perhaps, this “sunshine” is another reason oranges help take away the winter blues.
Schler is no stranger to citrus, having grown up a stone’s throw from the orchards. Although her parents received many recipe pamphlets from the citrus growers and associations, she mentions that it was rare when citrus was used in recipes. Now, as an adult, she experiments and develops savory and sweet recipes using the juice, zest, and the fruit in chunks, slices and segments. She writes, “Oranges go with just about everything, thus making them an extraordinary and indispensable ingredient, a versatile and remarkable flavoring in the kitchen.” She discusses the orange varieties and their nuances, orange flavorings such as orange blossom water, extract and liqueurs. I’ll be experimenting with her recipes for orange powder, sugar, salt and extract.
Chapters include: sauces, dressings, dips and relishes; soups, salads, starters and sides; main dishes; breads (both quick and yeast), cookies and treats; cakes; and desserts.
These are on the top of my list of the recipes from the book, I will be making Quinoa Salad with oranges (recipe below), pecans and cranberries, pasta with orange and speck, savory orange, onion, and olive focaccia, orange cardamom scones with honey orange spiced butter, Isabelle’s orange cake (recipe below), Moroccan spiced orange slices in orange blossom water (recipe below), and orange panna cotta with orange compote (recipe at https://bit.ly/39SJPNr).
Place the quinoa in a medium saucepan with the vegetable stock, water, and orange juice; bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low and simmer, covered, until the liquid has been absorbed, about 20 minutes; alternately, follow cooking directions for grain blend. Remove saucepan from heat, fluff the grains with a fork, cover and let rest for 5 minutes. Remove the lid and allow to cool.
While the quinoa is cooking, warm the pomegranate juice in a small saucepan; remove from heat, add the cranberries and soak in the warm juice to plump.
Once the quinoa has cooled, drain the cranberries, reserving the juice, and add the quinoa and cranberries to a large bowl along with the orange sections, grapes, scallions, and pecans; toss gently together to blend. Serves 4.
Whisk together the oil, lemon juice, vinegar, honey, Cointreau, the reserved juice from the cranberries, salt, and pepper until well-blended. Drizzle half the dressing over the quinoa salad and stir in gently. Allow to sit for 30 minutes for the flavors to blend. Check seasonings and serve at room temperature with the rest of the dressing on the side.
The headnote says, “My friend Isabelle’s French grandmother was the first in her family to make this simple, homey, yet luscious orange cake. The recipe was handed down from mother to daughter through four generations, and is now made by Isabelle and her daughter Clementine. The warm syrup permeates the cake, leaving it dense and moist, yet never wet — the perfect, most satisfying texture possible. Lovely eaten as is, but drizzle some orange-infused chocolate ganache, fresh apricot compote, or pile on marmalade whipped cream ( page 159 in the book) just before serving to elevate it from comforting to elegant.”
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter the bottom and sides of a 9-inch round baking pan and line the bottom with lightly buttered parchment paper. Flour the bottom and sides of the pan, shaking out the excess, and set aside.
Finely zest and juice the 2 oranges; you should have about 1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon zest and 2/3 to 3/4 cup juice.
Combine the flour, baking powder, and salt together in a small bowl.
In a large mixing bowl, stir together the sugar and butter until blended and smooth. Stir in the eggs, 1 at a time, beating vigorously after each addition. Stir the dry ingredients into the wet in 4 additions until well-combined and lump-free after each addition, scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed. Stir in the zest and juice until blended.
Pour the batter into the prepared pan and bake for 30-35 minutes until the center is just set and the cake is golden. Makes one (9-inch) round cake.
While the cake is baking, prepare the Orange Syrup by gently heating the orange juice and sugar together in a small saucepan over low heat just until all of the sugar has dissolved and the syrup is warm. This should only take 1-2 minutes at most. Remove from heat and set aside.
The headnote says, “ This traditional North African dessert — in which I’ve added pomegranate seeds for tartness, pistachios for crunch, and mint for a bright touch — is a light, surprisingly refreshing and fragrant finale to a hearty, rich, or spicy meal, a tagine, couscous, stew, or grill. Or serve it on a warm summer afternoon or evening for a cool, sophisticated, intriguing treat.”
Peel the oranges and cut away all of the white pith and outer membrane. Slice each orange across the core into 1/4-inch slices, 6 per orange, reserving any juice that runs off. Push out and discard any spongy white core. Fan the slices in concentric circles, slightly overlapping the fruit, on a large round serving platter.
Drizzle the orange blossom water and any reserved runoff juice over the fruit. Using a fine sieve, lightly and evenly dust with cinnamon and a generous sprinkling of sugar. Chill the oranges for at least 1 hour or longer in the refrigerator before serving. When ready to serve, sprinkle the pomegranate seeds, pistachios, and mint leaves evenly over the top. Serves 4-5.
Wild game beer dinner, Feb. 27, 7 p.m., The Hops Co., 77 Sodom Lane, Derby, $80; $70 for mug club members. Each course paired with a Two Roads beer. Menu and tickets at https://bit.ly/39dT7TR.
Connecticut Firefighters Charitable Foundation Wine and Beer Tasting, Feb. 28, 6:30 p.m., Vazzy’s Four Seasons, 337 Kenyon St., Stratford, 203-988-6689; $40 in advance, $45at door. Sample wines and beers from around or area and region, fine food. Tickets and info at https://bit.ly/2Pc7wbC.
Old Saybrook Chili Fest, Feb. 29, noon-3 p.m., Main Street, $10 for a ballot. Friendly competition with chili from about 30 chefs. The top three winning chilis will be honored with a donation to the charity of their choice. Info and tickets at https://bit.ly/2uwLqcN.
Limoncello-Making Workshop, March 13, 7 p.m., The Wine Press, 118 Quinnipiac Ave., North Haven, $40; 203-777-9463. Enjoy tasty desserts as we all perform the first step in limoncello-making. We will then demonstrate the second step and give written instructions to take home (which you will then perform 5 days later). We will also provide a demonstration on making fresh mozzarella, including samples. Tickets and important event details at https://bit.ly/32f8bhx.
Consiglio’s Mystery Dinner Theatre: “Leprechaun 13” March 13, 7 p.m., Consiglio’s Restaurant, 165 Wooster St., New Haven, reservations at 203-865-4489, $65 includes dinner and show (beverages, tax and gratuity not included). An interactive comedy show that goes on throughout the evening during a three-course meal. Cast mingles table to table, dropping clues for a mystery only you can solve. Dress in your finest green attire to compete for top prize. Menu at https://bit.ly/2vLEwk0.