Thursday, January 21, 2016

Citrus, Pomegranate and Mint Salad

While it is still technically winter, Southern California is abundant with great fruit and vegetables right now. Citrus is in its prime and there are countless varieties available at local farmers’ markets. Everything from Murcat mandarins, to Meyer lemons, to Kaffir limes, to kumquats, to tangerines, to pomelos are in season. I am particularly in love with the soft pink-colored-not-too-sweet Cara Cara oranges, and the deep red floral and slightly bitter blood oranges.

This Sunday night marks the beginning of Tu B’Shevat, the Jewish new year for trees. While there aren’t too many customs and rules associated with the holiday, many Jews celebrate with a Tu B’Shevat seder and by planting trees. Some folks celebrate by eating as many as 15 different varieties of fruits and vegetables for the holiday.

This salad is meant to celebrate the fruit that is in season now, and here during Tu B’Shevat. The recipe calls for both Cara Cara and blood oranges, but you can pick any of your favorite varieties of citrus (you could even add more than 3 varieties of citrus). The idea is to pile up the citrus fruit on top of your favorite lettuce or greens, cover it with a layer of sweet and tart pomegranate seeds, good quality feta cheese, lots of bright fresh mint, and a drizzle of tangy pomegranate molasses vinaigrette. Pomegranate molasses is simply reduced/concentrated pomegranate juice. If you don’t have pomegranate molasses you can dress this salad with a simple combination of lemon juice and olive oil.


Tu B’Shevat Citrus, Pomegranate, and Mint Salad
Serves 4-6 (recipe can be doubled or tripled as needed)

for the salad-
1 small head of lettuce, your favorite variety (Speckled, Romaine,Little Gem)
2 small Cara Cara oranges (or any available orange)
1 small blood orange (or any available orange)
2 tangerines
½ cup feta cheese, cubed small or crumbled
⅓ cup pomegranate seeds
¼ cup fresh mint leaves, chopped

for the dressing-
1 tablespoon pomegranate molasses
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1 teaspoon honey, or to taste
½ teaspoon salt
⅓ cup extra virgin olive oil

Start by removing the peel and outer membrane from all of the citrus. Slice off the very top and bottom of the fruit. Next, cut the peel and outer membrane away from the flesh by standing the fruit on its bottom and carefully run the knife alongside the fruit, cutting away the peel one section at a time. Once you have cut away the peel, slice the citrus into half inch rounds. Alternatively, you can also fully supreme the fruit.

Lay the lettuce leaves down into your serving platter or bowl. If using large leaves of lettuce, slice the lettuce into smaller pieces. Lay the fruit on top of the lettuce. Sprinkle with pomegranate seeds and fresh mint. Season with a pinch of salt.

In a small bowl, whisk together the pomegranate molasses, lemon juice, honey and salt. Slowly whisk in the olive oil. Taste and adjust according to your liking. Drizzle the dressing over the salad and serve.

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Chocolate Covered Cara Cara Oranges

This recipe is one of the easiest in my arsenal. It takes a modest investment of time and only 2 ingredients. You don't have to worry about exact measurements, and it's seasonally versatile.

Yes, these are simply oranges dipped in chocolate. That's it. However, when cut attractively, and when using the best possible fruit at the best possible time in that fruit's season with very very good chocolate, it's a stunning and delicious dessert. Also, it's always a crowd pleaser. Citrus is a great way to end a meal - especially in winter.

Cara cara oranges are at their peak right now. They're distinctively grapefruit-like in color on the inside, but with no bitterness and incredibly sweet and floral in flavor. I picked these up from Ken's Top Notch Produce stand at the Hollywood Farmers' market, but I've even seen Cara Cara's sold at Trader Joe's. Alternatively, you can use any citrus you like: tangerines, grapefruit (for that I omit the peel entirely when dipping in chocolate), pomelo, etc. You can also dip anything else in chocolate: strawberries, coconut, blackberries, pears, persimmons, and more.

The key is to be gentle with the chocolate when you heat it up - once it's melted take it off the heat and act fast. The second trick is to make sure the fruit isn't too damp or the chocolate won't stick. The third key is to lay the dipped chocolate flat on a lined baking sheet, and immediately chill the fruit in the refrigerator for at least an hour before you're ready to serve it.

Chocolate Covered Cara Cara Oranges
Serves 6

1-2 cups good quality dark or milk chocolate*
2 oranges, sliced into 1/4-1/2 inch thick circles and then into half moons
flake salt, to taste**

Start by slicing your fruit. If you do not want to have your guests deal with the peel, you can also just peel and segment the orange, but I prefer the look of the slices. Lay the orange slices over a clean kitchen towel or paper towels to absorb any excess moisture.

Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or foil.

Add the chocolate to a double boiler (or a metal bowl placed on top of a simmering pot of water). Occasionally stir until chocolate is just melted. Turn off the heat, and carefully dip the orange slices so that they are halfway covered by the melted chocolate. Lay the dipped orange onto the lined baking sheet. Immediately sprinkle with a tiny pinch of salt, if desired. Repeat until all of the oranges are dipped in chocolate.

* If using 2 cups of chocolate it will be easier to dip, but you might have extra chocolate at the end (sometimes I drizzle this over some cookies or other fruit). Also, for a glossier finish, you can add a tablespoon of coconut oil to the chocolate once it has just melted.

** I used Jacobsen Pinot Noir Flake Salt in this recipe. Alternatively you could sprinkle a little cayenne for heat, cinnamon for spice, or Turbinado sugar for extra sweetness 

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

All Things Green Avocado Toast

Photo by Eric Slatkin.  This recipe was developed for and first appeared on ASSEMBLY LINE.
Like many, I crave green fresh things at the start of the year. Even in LA it's dreary and cold, and fresh vegetables and leafy greens are very welcome after all of the rich food eaten over the holidays.
There are some food trends that are classics. I don't think I'll ever get tired of avocado toast. We're lucky to have so many good avocados in California year round. While I'm often homesick for the Pacific Northwest, avocados and other incredible produce are the things I love most about living here. Simple avocado on toast is perfect, but this is a gussied up version that takes little extra effort. Sometimes I like to start the day with a little extra time put into breakfast.
You don't really need a recipe, but here's one just in case. The idea is to add some fresh herbs, some protein in the form of pistachios, some spice with a little bit of thinly sliced jalapeno (optional), and a not of acid with lime zest and juice to this classic toast. There are endless variations and possibilities but I love the combo of creamy avocado paired with herbs, citrus, and nuts. Happy new year!
All Things Green Avocado Toast
Serves 1-2

2 large slices seeded multigrain or sprouted grain bread
1 avocado, sliced thin
¼ jalapeno, very thinly sliced
4 large basil leaves
4 chives
1 tablespoon fresh parsley leaves
1 tablespoon fresh cilantro leaves
2 tablespoons shelled roasted unsalted pistachio nuts, chopped
1 teaspoon lime zest, or to taste
fresh lime juice, to taste
extra virgin olive oil, drizzle to taste
salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

Start by toasting your bread slices. While the bread is toasting, prepare the other ingredients. Halve your avocado, and slice the avocado halves thin. Slice half a jalapeno pepper very thin. 

On a cutting board, pile the basil, chives, parsley and cilantro together. Roughly chop all of the herbs. Roughly chop the pistachios. 

Once your bread is toasted, top each slice with half of the avocado. Top the avocado with a few slices of jalapeno, if using. Top the jalapeno with your herb mixture. Top the herbs with chopped pistachios. Grate some fresh lime zest over each slice of toast. Squeeze lime juice over the toast.
Drizzle the olive oil over each slice. Finally, garnish the toast with salt and pepper, to taste.