citrus + fennel winter salad

citrus + fennel winter salad

This salad is so simple, yet so good that I’ve already made it twice this week. Its flavors are clean and bright, making it an especially nice pairing with the otherwise heavy, slow-cooked dishes of the winter. Better yet, it will be on the table in just around 15 minutes, including the time it takes to toast the nuts. I find that macadamia nuts are really worth using here — they have a rich, toasty sweetness that other nuts simply cannot replicate. You should be able to find them in the self-serve bins at any specialty market. 

The best thing about this salad is how versatile it is. If you have leftovers and are looking for something a bit heartier, like I was the other day, try adding some chopped Tuscan Kale and a spoonful of tahini to the dressing. Enjoy!

ingredients:

1/2 cup whole macadamia nuts

1 white grapefruit

1 blood orange

1 small bulb of fennel

3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

salt and freshly cracked black pepper, to taste

 

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Spread the macadamia nuts in a single layer on a sheet pan. Toast in the oven, shaking the pan periodically, until browned and fragrant, about 10 minutes. Set aside to cool. Once cool, chop coarsely.

While the nuts are toasting, cut the top and bottom from the grapefruit and rest it on end. Run a sharp knife down the sides of the fruit, starting at its top and following its curve to the bottom, to remove the skin and pith and expose the fruit. Once you have completely removed the skin, cut the grapefruit into supremes by slicing into the fruit in between each membrane, until you’ve removed all of its segments. Squeeze the leftover membrane into a bowl to catch any juice and reserve. Repeat process with the blood orange.

Remove the fennel tops from the bulb. Reserve a few fronds for garnish and discard the stems (or save for vegetable broth)! Using a mandolin on its thinnest setting, slice the bulb into fine shavings. Set aside.

In a small bowl, whisk 2 tablespoons of the reserved grapefruit juice with the olive oil. Season to taste with salt and freshly cracked black pepper.

In a large bowl, gently toss the grapefruit and orange supremes and fennel shavings. Dress lightly with the vinaigrette. Garnish with the chopped, toasted macadamia nuts and fennel fronds.

shortbread cookies, two ways


shortbread cookies, two ways

These cookies both start with the same shortbread base — a blank canvas for vibrant, creative flavors. One version is warm, spicy, and sweet, almost like a buttery graham cracker with a peppery bite, covered in looping drizzles of melted chocolate. The other is flecked with orange zest, both throughout the dough and its icing, adding an acidic brightness in contrast to the rich, buttery cookie. Initially, I was planning on making both, and sharing whichever one I preferred. But, after tasting them, I really can’t say which I like more. So, here you have it: shortbread cookies, two ways.

 

for the shortbread base: 

2 cups all purpose flour

2 sticks unsalted butter, softened

3/4 cup confectioner’s sugar

1 teaspoon coarse salt

 

for the spiced shortbread with chocolate drizzle:

1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/4 teaspoon ground cayenne pepper [I find this amount to give a nice kick without being overpowering. If you are really sensitive to heat though, you may want to use a bit less].

1/4 cup semisweet chocolate chips

1/4 cup bittersweet chocolate chips

coarse salt, to taste

 

for the iced orange shortbread:

1 1/4 teaspoons orange zest

3/4 cup confectioner’s sugar

2 tablespoons heavy cream

1 tablespoon freshly squeezed orange juice

 

First, make the plain shortbread dough: sift [or whisk] the flour and salt in a medium-sized bowl. In a stand mixer with a paddle attachment, beat the butter on medium high for about 2-3 minutes. With the mixer on low, gradually add the sugar. Increase the mixer’s speed to medium high and beat, scraping down the sides as needed, until mixture is pale in color, about 3-4 additional minutes. Lower the mixer’s speed to low, and gradually add flour mixture. Mix until just combined. Remove dough from bowl and divide it into two equal portions.

To make the spiced shortbread dough: add one portion of the dough back to the mixer and sprinkle in cinnamon and cayenne pepper. Mix on low until incorporated. Remove dough from bowl and roll into a fat log. Wrap in plastic wrap and transfer to the refrigerator. Chill for at least 30 minutes before baking. [it will be easier to roll into a skinnier log once the dough is chilled]

To make the orange shortbread dough: add one portion of dough to the mixer and sprinkle in 1 teaspoon of the orange zest. Mix on low until incorporated. Remove dough from bowl and roll into a fat log. Wrap in plastic wrap and transfer to the refrigerator. Chill for at least 30 minutes before baking. [it will be easier to roll into a skinnier log once the dough is chilled]

*Make sure to clean the mixer bowl in between making the two versions!

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Once chilled, remove the logs of dough from the refrigerator, unwrap, and roll them both until they are about 1 1/2 – 2-inches in diameter. Slice into 1/4-inch medallions and place on a large, parchment lined baking sheet. Make sure to leave a little bit of space around each cookie.

Bake, on the center rack, until cookies are lightly golden brown around the edges, about 15-20 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack to cool.

While cookies are cooling, make the glazes. 

To make the chocolate glaze: combine both kinds of chocolate chips in a small bowl. Microwave in 30 second intervals [stirring in between each interval], being careful not to burn. [If you prefer, you can also use a double boiler]. Mix until completely melted and smooth. 

To make orange glaze: Add sugar, heavy cream, orange juice, and orange zest to a small bowl. Whisk until completely combined and smooth. 

Next, decorate the cookies. Once they have completely cooled, drizzle the melted chocolate over the spiced shortbread cookies, and sprinkle with salt [I actually used a cinnamon, chipotle salt that I happened to have on hand, which was delicious — you could even make your own mixture of cinnamon, cayenne, and salt for garnish — don’t be afraid to experiment!] Dip the top of the orange shortbread cookies in the orange glaze and allow excess to drip off. Allow all cookies to sit at room temperature until the chocolate and glaze is hardened, then transfer to an airtight container to store. [You can refrigerate the cookies to speed the drying process, but they do not need to be stored in the refrigerator].

Enjoy! 

 

Makes about 24 cookies [12 of each flavor]

rosemary + ginger bourbon sour


rosemary + ginger bourbon sour

This cocktail is both bright and warming – a welcome contrast to the gray days of January. I think it’s delicious with either lemon or grapefruit juice – experiment and see what you prefer. The ratio of ingredients can also easily be adjusted to taste [increase the syrup for a sweeter drink, or the bourbon for a stronger cocktail]. 

 

ingredients [makes one cocktail]:

1 1/2 shots bourbon

1 shot rosemary ginger simple syrup

3/4 shot freshly squeezed lemon or grapefruit juice

2 sprigs of rosemary

In a cocktail shaker, add bourbon, simple syrup, and citrus juice. Add ice and the leaves from one sprig of rosemary [crush or rip them slightly before adding to release their aroma]. Shake vigorously and strain into a glass with ice. Garnish with remaining sprig of rosemary.

 

rosemary ginger simple syrup:

1 cup water

1/4 cup sugar

2 sprigs of rosemary

1/2 cup of fresh ginger root [peeled and roughly chopped]

Remove the leaves from the sprigs of rosemary and add to a small saucepan with water, sugar, and chopped ginger. Bring mixture to a boil over high heat, and stir to dissolve sugar (about 30 seconds – 1 minute). Cover, remove from heat and allow to steep for about 30 minutes. Strain and refrigerate until chilled.

 

olive oil citrus cake

It was Saturday – the beginning of the weekend, but the end of vacation. The streets were lined with discarded, naked Christmas trees, serving as an unwelcome reminder of holidays past. We walked towards home, numb fingers and rosy cheeks, trying to focus less on what was fast approaching, and more on the present moment. Dreaming of something to lift our spirits, my mind settled on cake – cake with bright, citrus flavors to oppose such gray feelings. I made a promise to myself to move slowly, and to relish in the joy of doing something that I love. Yet, I found it hard to shake the gloom that had rooted itself within me.

And so I found myself in a pattern that I often do in the beginning of a new year. The cheer of celebration and anticipation of untapped opportunities that define the final days of December and first days of January, fade into a less ambitious reality. Goals and dreams that seemed so palpable, suddenly seem distant and unattainable. Confidence and drive slam against a wall of self doubt and fear.

I pour my carefully prepared batter into a springform pan, open the oven, and lift. The spring on my pan releases, and in a cliched metaphor for my slipping ambition, I watch in shock as the batter flows, without restraint, from my hands. Batter covers the stove, spreading almost greedily to the floor – as to say, yup, you failed. The promise of a cake, gone – an opportunity, missed; a goal, unmet – and with it my confidence. The symbolism was staring me in the face.

With a nod of recognition, I picked myself up and started again. I made that cake. I made two cakes, actually. And, with those two triumphs born from one failure, I taught myself a timely lesson amidst a cloud of self doubt. Failure hurts – it’s merciless and cold. But, I’m stronger – we’re all stronger. And, if we stare that failure in the face and push on, we’ll have a greater success to show for it. 

Here’s to a year of letting my hurt confidence drive my determination. I hope you’ll join me.


Olive Oil Citrus Cake

This cake recipe comes from Maialino Restaurant in New York City. I made a few slight changes, and added a glaze and candied citrus slices, which I found even further brightened the herbaceous flavors of the olive oil in the cake. If you’ve never tried olive oil cake before, I highly recommend that you give it a try. Its laden with moisture – almost similar in texture to a bread pudding – and deep flavor. 

for the glaze:

1 cup confectioner’s sugar

1/4 cup heavy cream

2 tablespoons freshly squeezed orange juice

1 teaspoon orange zest

1 vanilla bean [split lengthwise and scrape out the seeds]

Whisk all ingredients together until smooth. The glaze should be runny, but thick enough to coat the back of a spoon. You can adjust the thickness by adding additional orange juice or confectioner’s sugar, if needed.

 

for the candied citrus:

recipe from Food & Wine 

1 1/2 cups water

1/2 cup sugar

1 orange [or lemon, or grapefruit], sliced crosswise very thinly [about 1/8-inch] 

In a medium saut√© pan, combine cup sugar and cup water and bring to a boil. Add the orange slices, in a single layer [the edges of the slices can be slightly overlapping, but you want them mostly in a single layer – if your pan is too small, just split into batches, adding 1 1/2 cup water and 1/2 cup sugar for each batch]. Simmer over medium heat, flipping slices occasionally, until mixture starts to appear syrupy and slices are translucent [about 20 minutes]. Lower heat to medium-low and simmer until the mixture reaches a thick syrup [about 10 additional minutes]. Carefully remove slices from pan [they should still hold together, but will be very delicate], and transfer to a wire rack to cool. I found that my syrup was too reduced at this point to save, but if yours isn’t, I’m sure it would be lovely in a cocktail. [note: I made one batch of candied orange and one of lemon, and had plenty slices left over after garnishing two cakes].

for the cake:

recipe slightly adapted from Maialino Restaurant

2 cups cake flour or all-purpose flour [cake flour will result in a slightly more delicate cake, which I like with the moisture-rich texture of olive oil cake]

1 3/4 cups sugar

1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon baking powder

1 1/3 cups extra-virgin olive oil

1 cup milk

1/4 cup heavy cream

3 large eggs

1 1/2 tablespoons grated orange zest

1/4 cup fresh orange juice

1/4 cup Grand Marnier

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Butter a 9-inch cake pan that is at least 2 inches deep, and dust with flour. [If your cake pan is less the 2 inches deep, divide the batter between 2 pans – I ended up dividing between an 8-inch and a 5-inch pan].

In a medium bowl, whisk the flour, sugar, salt, baking soda, and baking powder. In a large bowl, whisk the olive oil, milk, eggs, orange zest, orange juice, and Grand Marnier until fully combined. Add the dry ingredients and whisk until just combined. 

Pour the batter into the prepared pan[s] and bake until the cake is golden and a cake tester or toothpick comes out clean – this should take about 1 hour for one 9-inch cake. I found my 5-inch cake was finished around 40-45 minutes, and my 8-inch cake closer to 50 minutes.

Run a knife around the edge of the pan, invert the cake onto a rack and allow to cool to room temperature. 

Once cake is cooled, drizzle with glaze and top with candied citrus slices, if desired. Enjoy!