World on a Plate

Exploring culture. One plate at a time.

Month: April, 2008

Winter Sunshine

                Sh_orange

I got the blues thinking of the future, so I left off and made some marmalade. It’s amazing how it cheers one up to shred oranges and scrub the floor.

~D.H. Lawrence

I love citrus. A large bright family that includes sweet and sour oranges, lemons, limes, citrons, pomelos, grapefruit, tangerines, clementines (Pixies!) and kumquats (ok technically not but we all think it.) Is there any other fruit that can make you feel so happy? Is there another that can come along and enliven a winter dish of beets or simple pasta.

Over the past month I was lucky enough to receive generous harvests from a friend’s backyard "orchard."  Darn those were good.  Eating them out of hand, fresh squeeze o.j. and then this cake that I made was the perfect compliment to an Easter dinner.

It’s such a simple and efficient recipe using every part of the orange–peel, pith, and flesh and when all is done there is just a hint of almond carried through the very moist and dense cake. Weeks after baking this cake for Easter dinner I learned that it’s very close in composition to a recipe from Claudia Rosen and Nigella Lawson.

What’s even better than the cake is the compote–really a quick route to homemade marmalade.  And really what is marmalade but jam with the peel. Ok that’s a bit offhand but for those that like the bright taste of orange on their toast or crumpets this part of the recipe is worth holding on to–and I promise it won’t be around long enough for it to spoil.

Orange Almond Cake

Adapted from a Martha Stewart recipe. And don’t we all know her recipes are thorough… follow this version you will have success.  Let’s just say her recipes assume a generous base of experience by the baker.

Ingredients

6 navel or other sweet oranges

Unsalted butter, room temperature, for pan

1/2 cup all-purpose flour, plus more for pan

1 3/4 cups finely ground blanched almonds (about 6 ounces)

1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder

1/2 teaspoon salt

6 large eggs

2 cups sugar

Instructions

Place whole unpeeled oranges in a large pot and cover with cold water. Over high heat bring to a boil. Reduce heat, and simmer gently for 2 hours. Drain off the water and set the oranges aside to cool.

A few hours later:

Preheat over to 350 degrees. Butter and flour a 9" springform pan.  Cut the cooled oranges in half; remove any seeds. Place 7 halves into a food processor and pulse until almost pureed but still a little chunky.  There should be about 3 cups.

In a small bowl whisk the ground almonds, flour, baking powder and salt together.  In an electric mixer bowl with the whisk attachment beat the eggs with 1 cup sugar on medium speed until light and fluffy.  Stir in orange puree until just combined.  Stir in flour mixture.   Pour into prepared springform pan.  Bake for about 1 hour or until a knife comes out clean from the center.  Cool completely.

Prepare orange marmalade compote:

Chop the remaining 5 orange halves into 1/2" pieces. Place in bowl.  In a medium sized saucepan combine remaining cup sugar with 3/4 cup water.  Bring to a boil until sugar is dissolved.

Add the chopped oranges and reduce heat to medium.  Simmer this mixture gently until the liquid has evaporated and thickens into a syrup about 25 minutes. Remove from heat and let cool.

To serve:

arrange chopped oranges and pour any remaining syrup over top of cake. Cut into wedges. Can be stored up to two days in the refrigerator.

Spring Supper

                Sh_asparagus

Last Sunday in the early morning spring drizzle I got myself over to the farmers market.  The offerings are just beginning to change over to spring yield.  Unfortunately there were no early English peas to be found just now which I will just need to be a little more patient.  I had this idea of a dish that will remain tucked away until nature is ready. What was in abundance was citrus, radish, asparagus and green onions.  And that, as we all know, is what you do when you frequent the farmers market.  You go with what nature provides as she knows best.

Interesting little thing I learned at the market about asparagus is that the "jumbo" variety is produced from a younger plant than the pencil-thin kind.  Asparagus from the Delta region has been with us for the last 6 weeks and will be around for a quite a bit longer  so here are a few other musings to consider:

Lemon-pepper fettuccine with asparagus and shrimp

Asparagus with Brown Butter-Basted Egg for One

Mollie Katzen’s Glazed asparagus with  pomegranate-lime glaze

To prepare the asparagus check out The Kitchen’s primer.

Asparagus Salad with Beans and Feta

This dish is super easy to prepare.  I use a small hand mandoline to make quick work of the radishes.

Ingredients

3 cups (1-inch) diagonally cut asparagus (after prepped)

1 cup canned cannellini beans or other white beans, rinsed and drained

1/2 cup thinly sliced radishes

1/2 cup crumbled feta cheese

2 tablespoons minced green onions

2 teaspoons fresh orange juice

1 teaspoon extra-virgin olive oil

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/8 teaspoon black pepper

Preparation

Steam the asparagus, covered, 3 minutes or until crisp-tender. Rinse asparagus with cold water, and drain. Combine asparagus and next 4 ingredients (asparagus through onions) in a large bowl.

Prepare the dressing by combining the juice and remaining ingredients in a small bowl and whisk together. Pour over asparagus mixture; toss gently to coat.

Yields 4 one-cup servings.

Om Shanti Om!

                Traveler_page_01

Yes. Yes. Over here. My oh my. I have been absent haven’t I? Well from here, not from life nor kitchen.  Two months have rolled on by.  Needless to say I am becoming consistently absent.   How do people do this whole thing while holding down a full time job?  Is anyone else managing a team? a line of business? holding down a bit of a social calendar?! Enough whining!

More or less what’s passed since I was last here is that that issue #2 of Traveler has been released.  We affectionately call this issue Hula Baby! Isn’t that just the most adorable photo? Before I get those comments  that seem to follow when people see this cover is that issue #3 will not feature a back side.  Over 32-pages Hawaii, Costa Rica, a Kenyan safari and volunteering while on vacation are all vividly illustrated.  Each issue–3 and 4 are closing or in development as I write–keeps getting better and better.  Although the process has gotten easier each issue is an endeavor.  I really like the work  as it is rewarding and challenging in equal weight. 

                Omshantiom

So all this marketing of travel has pushed me to make a decision about my summer vacation.  So being of sound culinary mind and desire I have decided to journey to Kerala for a culinary tour. India.  Lash Pash eh?!  My interest in the culture of India started a few years ago with the discovery of Bollywood at the annual SF Asian Film Festival.  This  moved into a natural and growing interest and exploration of the food of India.  I love Bollywood.  There I’ve said it. At this year’s festival the Bollywood film Om Shanti Om directed by Farah Khan and starring Shahrukh Khan was shown. If you haven’t experienced Bollywood you are missing something special.  I spent 9 plus hours watching three films on one day during this year’s festival.  The third film of the day began at 8:45 pm and at 12:30 am, on a Sunday, the sidewalk outside the Castro was alive with laughing and impromtu dancing.  This film is lash pash (fantastic).  Drama, comedy, singing, dancing—it has everything. 

Now it’s a masala of blogs, cookbooks, travel guides and podcasts related to the language, food, music  and movies as I prepare for the trip in August.  Three weeks in Southern India. Visiting a coconut farm, a tea plantation, home cooking lessons, a spice auction and somewhere along the way I hope to end up on a beach somewhere. But now there’s so much to learn, to taste, to understand.  So over the next few months as Iaccelerate and build my fundamentals I will share those posts with you.  There’s quite a few good books that I’m mid-way through including Curry – A Tale of Cooks & Conquerors and Eating India that are not only excellent primers on Indian cuisine but also of a crash course in political history.  If anyone has tips, suggestions related to understanding the food of Southern India or places not to be missed please–do let me know.