March 29, 2011

Citrus and Secrets


Let's get this out of the way.  I'm not a big fan of citrus.  Okay, let me revise that.  I'm not a fan of eating oranges, tangerines or grapefruit out of hand.  That skin that surround each section, the dry white pith - no thank you!  I feel like I could chew it for days and it would never break down and that just plain grosses me out.  It once took me a whole 30 minutes to eat a clementine because I had to peel the skin off each section just to get to the tasty juicy parts.

People think I'm crazy.

I have no problem with orange juice - except maybe the really pulpy stuff - or the flavor of any citrus.  I obsess over cakes made using an entire citrus fruit, rind, pith and all.  I'm all for infusing spirits with the bright color and flavor of blood oranges.  Supreming or segmenting citrus and tossing into salads is a-okay too.  It's just that skin.  It, well, gets under my skin.

But this relish or salsa or whatever you want to call it, I would never turn my nose up at it.  It's bright, refreshing and a welcome change from the standby guacamole.  And really, it comes from Oprah, and who would say no to that woman?  Not I!  (Even if we did serendipitously end up camping a few sites away from her in Yosemite and she didn't come and share cocktails with us.)

Citrus Avocado Salsa
Adapted from O Magazine, December 2010

Originally, this recipe called for pomegranates, but since those are no longer in season, I substituted a variety of oranges for color contrast and differing levels of acidity.  Also, loving avocados as much as I do, I doubled up on the amount of avocado called for and opted for the more potent heat of a serrano chile.  Oprah made a convert out of this orange hater, and I think you'll love this salsa too.  It's quite lovely with pomegranates, so keep it in mind when their season comes back around. 

Makes at least 4 cups

1 tablespoon fresh lime juice
1 teaspoon kosher or sea salt
1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
6 oranges (I used 2 blood oranges, 2 cara cara and 2 navels for variety)
2 medium avocados, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
2/3 cup diced red onion
1 serrano chile, seeds and ribs removed, minced
2 green onions, thinly sliced
1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro leaves

In a large bowl, whisk together lime juice, salt and pepper until salt dissolves.

Remove all skin, white pith, and seeds from the oranges, reserving any juice that's squeezed out in the process. Drain juice into a measuring cup and set aside. Cut orange segments into 1/2-inch pieces and add to bowl containing lime juice.

Add the avocado, red onion, jalapeño, green onion, and cilantro to the bowl.  Gently fold the ingredients together, being careful to not mash the avocados. Add reserved orange juice, 1 tablespoon at a time, until salsa is moist but not soupy. Taste and adjust seasoning. Transfer to a serving bowl, cover, and set aside for at least 1 hour to allow flavors to meld. Serve at room temperature with tortilla chips.

March 16, 2011

Checking In

Things have been crazy in this little corner of the world.  I'm right in the thick of mid-terms and D has been flying all over the place interviewing for grad school.  It must seem on the contrary, with posting slowing to the slightest trickle, but let me assure you, when I get a moment to breath, I've got several delicious recipes to share.  Until then, here's an update of what's been going on.

I'm continually falling in love with my Saturday market each weekend that creeps closer to full blown spring time.  This past weekend I brought home some real all stars.  The spinach from Sage Mountain is incredible; sweet and toothsome, I'm convinced that the stuff they sell in grocery stores doesn't deserve the same name.  The blueberries from Pudwill, fava beans from Maciel & Family and the inevitable stop at Taste to pick up a delicious Ossau Iraty cheese.  Romenesco from Suzie's and a Fuerte avocado from Schaner Farms rounds out the green bounty.  And last, but certainly not least, honey from Swiss Mountain.  This is truly some of the yummiest wildflower honey I've tasted with deep caramel and floral flavors, I'm addicted.

This past Sunday, a friend hosted a farm-to-table potluck with about 12 other ladies.  We were all instructed to bring a dish featuring ingredients from our garden or from the farmer's market.  I may not have a garden - hello apartment living! - but I sure can shop a farmer's market, so I threw this together with some of Saturday's finds.  I used about a cup each of freshly shelled fava beans and English peas, that I blanched for 2 minutes then added to that a handful of spinach, julienned and 4 thinly sliced radishes.  Tossed it with the juice of 1/2 a lemon, a little salt and pepper and freshly shaved Romano cheese and declared it finished.  Light, bright and very much the flavors of spring.

And in a drastic change of eating scenery, I give you doughnuts.  While D has been flying up and down the West coast, interviewing for grad school, he always manages to return with a little surprise for me.  From San Fransisco it was Sightglass coffee, Seattle was another bag of coffee beans from Stumptown (coffee snobs, much?) and yesterday it was this lovely box of sugary goodness, direct from Portland via Voodoo Doughnuts.  Bacon Maple Bar, anyone?  That thing is delish!  Then there's the Old Dirty Bastard (chocolate frosting, oreos and peanut putter), The Maple Blazer Blunt (maple frosting, red sprinkles), Portland Cream and Captain my Captain (with Captain Crunch, obvs).  I'm not a huge doughnut fan, usually, but I can make exceptions and that maple bacon combination makes me weak in the knees.

{...we now return to regularly scheduled studying.}

March 1, 2011

Hello? 1950's Calling.


They're called porcupine balls.  Little meatballs studded with rice and simmered in a bright tomato sauce; I dare you not to like them.  They're so 1950's chic.  They're so cute and small and prickly when the rice puffs up during cooking and pokes out (get it?!).  I think I'd love them even if I didn't grow up eating them, for the name alone.

I wish I had a picture of the cookbook that this recipe came from to show you.  The cover has all these Charley Harper inspired illustrations of meals and each section of the cookbook is broken down by meat or vegetable type.  The beef section has illustrations of happy cows and beef cuts all over the pages and everything is color coordinated to boot.  Of course, since it's put out by the cutlery company Cutco, there's little illustrations of knives too.  It's got a lot of kitsch and retro charm.

I really embraced the 1950's housewife feel having set a plate of these on the table not 5 minutes after D walked in the door from work, complete with a baked potato and steamed broccoli.  Just your regular June Cleaver over here.  There's nothing gourmet about this skillet of tomato covered meatballs, it's all about being economical.  Stretching that affordable ground beef with some rice and minimal seasonings, a couple of cans of tomato sauce (or soup depending on your recipe) and feeding your nuclear family unit with your 2.3 children.  And there's nothing wrong with that.

Porcupine Balls
Adapted from the Cutco Cookbook

I think the original recipe has you cook the porcupine balls in canned tomato soup diluted with water, but since I have misplaced the recipe and was making this from memory I couldn't say for certain.  Personally I chose to use a few cans of tomato sauce in hopes of avoiding the sodium bomb that comes along with canned condensed soups and I think I'll keep that change in the future.  I kept the seasoning pretty minimal in the meatballs as I was envisioning something simple and comforting and not veering into a specific flavor profile, but feel free to experiment and tweak with any seasonings you see fit. 

Makes about 20 meatballs

1 pound ground beef
2 tablespoons grated raw onion
3 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 cup uncooked white rice
salt and pepper
1 tablespoon olive oil
16 oz tomato sauce
1 cup water
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
1 teaspoon sugar

In a bowl, combine the ground beef, uncooked rice, onion, garlic and season with salt and pepper.  Using your hands mix everything together until it looks like the rice is evenly distributed throughout.  Form into about 20 golf ball sized meatballs, by pressing and rolling small pieces of the mixture in between the palms of your hands.  Set aside on a plate or cookie sheet.

Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil over medium high heat in a large skillet and add the meatballs, leaving some space around each one browning one side, then another for no more than 5 minutes total.  Add in the 2 cans of tomato sauce, water, Worcestershire sauce and sugar and gently stir to get everything incorporated.  Bring to a simmer, cover and cook on low heat for 35-40 minutes.  Most likely the sauce will not completely cover the meatballs, so give them a stir once or twice during cooking so they at least maintain a coating of sauce.  Serve, spooning the sauce over the porcupine balls.