Saturday, December 25, 2010

Clementine Countdown: 1!

Merry Christmas, everyone! Here's to laughing with the ones you love, new adventures, and enjoying the little things—like clementines. 

Sheesh, that was a lot of clementines. And I can honestly say that I am not tired of them. I had to buy a second, five pound bag to keep up with the countdown, and those will be gone by the end of the weekend.

I am, however, tired of blogging about them. Here’s an idea, just eat them. They’re yummy!
Thanks to all my friends and readers who came up with great ways to enjoy them. I will leave you with a few of my favorites:
  • On vanilla ice cream, drizzled with caramel sauce and sprinkled with pecan bits
  • In a champagne cocktail
  • In a stir-fry with pork
  • Tossed on top of some mixed greens with caramelized walnuts and a raspberry vinaigrette
  • And this one deserves to be quoted directly. Brilliant, Annie. “What about a clementine cocktail? Last spring I went through a little phase of making cocktails inspired by salads and it was so much fun to just totally make up my own recipes. You could make a syrup with the clem’s juice and add pepper, cardamom and cinnamon sticks. I’d be tempted to soak some pomegranate seeds in vanilla sugar and a hint of balsamic vinegar. You could add the juice they produce to the syrup and garnish the final drink with those gorgeous jewel red seeds. Toasted pine nuts and some sort of herb (flowering rosemary?) could be nice as a garnish…Oh, and for the alcohol. I always only ever have whiskey in my liquor cabinet thanks to a little birdie that turned me on to Knob Creek when I was still a wee pup.”

Friday, December 24, 2010

Clementine Countdown: 2

Enjoy clementines with the best friends in the world. The kind who make you birthday brunch, even when your birthday is on Christmas Eve. And serve clementines with pan de jamón.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Clementine Countdown: 3

Clementines with steel cut oats, toasted pecans, brown sugar and plain Greek-style yogurt. I had this great idea where I was going to broil clementine slices with brown sugar, and eat them on top of oatmeal. They came out beautifully. Only problem, they tasted awful.
So, here we are with a simpler and very reliable version: chopped. This is good, and a nice alternative to the frozen berries and raisins that I have been eating on my oatmeal for the past couple of months.

I like the steel cut oats, but they do take a while to prepare. But they keep well in the fridge and are great reheated, so I have been making a bigger batch (three servings) and enjoying them throughout the week for a quick and warm breakfast, or savory with parmesan cheese, olive oil, and cracked pepper.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Clementine Countdown: 4

Share your clementines with children. Tasty, easy to peel, seedless, little-hand-sized, and healthy—they’re kids’ bespoke fruit.

Clementine Countdown: 5

Clementine segments dipped in chocolate with spicy sugar and unsweetened cream. When you put these little jewels in your mouth, it’s sugar and hard chocolate first, then a burst of cold orange, then the chili flake fire, which gets put out by the unsweetened cream. It’s a saga in seconds. A story you want to hear again and again.
  • Line a cookie sheet or large tray with parchment.
  • Peel and segment 4 or 5 clementines 
  • Heat ½ cup good chocolate (around 70% cocoa) and a pat of butter in a double boiler.
  • Mix 2 T rock sugar and 1 t red chili flakes in a mortar and pestle until slightly broken down and well combined.
  • Dip clementine segments in the hot chocolate, then the sugar mixture, and then lay them to cool on the parchment. Refrigerate until ready to serve.
  • Serve with unsweetened whipped cream.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Clementine Countdown: 6

Stud your clementine with cloves and call it a pomander.
Repetitive, delightfully aromatic, and mindless enough to do while chatting with loved ones, enjoying a bit of bourbon, or both. Also, what I am doing tonight because it’s dark and cold and I don’t have a TV. And maybe tomorrow night if my friends are up for it.

Try setting out big bowls of clementines and cloves at a party and see what your guests come up with.

To make a clementine pomander, poke holes in your clementine with an awl or some other sharp pointy thing. I like to make the holes as close together as possible without breaking the skin between them so the pomander ends up almost totally covered with cloves. Stick cloves in the holes. Let the pomander dry in a warm dry place for a few weeks until it’s hard. Sniff.

Happy Winter Solstice!

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Clementine Countdown: 7

Clementine Cupcakes with Cream Cheese Frosting
It's that time of year againthe time when it seems necessary to have dessert at brunch. That, and my recent commitment to daily clementines, is what inspired me to make tiny clementine cupcakes for my family’s annual Christmas brunch this morning. Seasonally appropriate, child friendly, and a rational portion size for a course that doesn’t really exist.

I used the Citrus Cupcake recipe from the new Cooking at Home, swapped clementines for oranges, and made a clementine cream cheese frosting. They’re bite-sized and great. So how many tiny cupcakes make up a serving? At least seven, right?

Clementine Cupcakes
Adapted from Cooking at Home, Williams-Sonoma.

1½ cups flour
1¼ t baking powder
½ t baking soda
¼ t salt
¾ cup sugar
¼ cup unsalted butter
2/3 c milk
Zest of 4 clementines
Zest of 1 lemon
1 egg plus 1 yolk

  • Mix flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt in a medium bowl. Stir in the sugar.
  • Combine butter, milk and zest in a medium sauce pan and heat over medium heat until the butter melts.
  • Whisk the hot milk mixture into the flour mixture until combined. Add the egg and yolk.
  • Pour the batter into tiny cupcake tins with liners, and bake at 350 for 10-11 minutes.
  • Remove the cupcakes from the tin to cool.
  • Spoon the frosting into a large zip lock bag, snip the bottom corner of the bag off, and squeeze the frosting out to top the cakes.
Clementine Cream Cheese Frosting
Juice and zest from 4 clementines
1 T sugar
1 # cream cheese, room temperature
6 T unsalted butter, room temperature
1 ¼ cups powdered sugar
1 t vanilla extract

  • Heat the juice and sugar in a small sauce pan over medium heat until the sugar is dissolved and the juice is slightly thickened, about 4 minutes. Set aside to cool.
  • Mix the cream cheese and butter in an electric mixer on high until smooth.
  • Reduce the speed to low and add the powdered sugar.
  • Mix in the vanilla juice mixture.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Clementine Countdown: 8

Clementines in a salad with curly endive, thinly sliced red onion, chunks of mizithra, kalamata olives, and toasted pepitas, all tossed with olive oil and salt. Soak the endive in ice water for 20 minutes or so to remove some of the bitterness.

Enjoy as a light weekend lunch, undoubtedly before a rich and slightly excessive holiday dinner.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Clementine Countdown: 9

Friday-style, clementines with spiced nuts and a cold beer.
It’s Friday, people, and even your clementines want to loosen up a bit. Kick back after work and enjoy them with some spiced nuts and a crisp lager. I’m having mine with an ice cold Coors Light, but I am sure a fancier beer would work as well, if that’s the kind of Friday you have in mind.

The combo is an aromatic overload sure to blast away any weekday woes and usher you into a fine, relaxing holiday weekend.


Thursday, December 16, 2010

Clementine Countdown: 10

Do you have a huge bowl of clementines sitting on your counter? I do.

Maybe it’s because you can only buy them in a five pound bag (brilliant, btw). But I’m not complaining. I love the clementines—they look like nature’s Christmas ornaments, smell like winter sunshine, taste refreshing and clean, and are probably the only thing I have eaten all December that does not include refined sugar and/or white flour.

So bring it on, clementines. All five pounds of you. Here comes the Clementine Countdown. I am going to post a different way to enjoy clementines every day until Christmas. And I haven’t thought of all of them yet, so let me know if you have some good ideas.

Here goes!

Clementine Countdown 10: With Hot Cocoa as an afternoon snack. I work in a place that has an endless fountain of free hot cocoa, so this was a natural choice for my first post. Today I enjoyed the cocoa in my favorite new mug from Laguna Vintage Pottery.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Peking Nuts

“It starts out like Peking duck, then transitions into some sort of holiday cookie.” That’s what my friend said when he tasted my Chinese five spice candied nuts.

I should probably just stop here—leave you with the duck-cookie reference and dive right in to the recipe. I mean, you kind of have to try them after a statement like that, right?

But it took an emotional village to make these spiced nuts, and since it’s the holidays and a nice time to reflect on how lucky we are, I’ll tell you a bit more.

I was feeling discouraged about blogging for the holidays. Not only had every other blogger already posted the best cookie recipe ever or the most thoughtful and unique gift guide, but it’s also been so freaking dark that I never seem to be in my home when a photo might come out even remotely attractive. I had no ideas, and it was dark.

But I can be dramatic, and in reality, I was spending a lot of time with some pretty perfect friends and family, complaining about how my mind had gone dark instead of cooking. And after a rant similar to the paragraph above, a dear friend said, “Why don’t you make some interesting spiced nuts?”

I really couldn’t argue.

So I started hunting down the whole spices I would need to make Chinese five spice candied nuts. Fennel seeds and cloves from my spice drawer, check. Cinnamon stick and Sichuan peppercorns from the grocery store down the street, check. Then, of course, I didn't think I was going to find star anise (not to be confused with regular old anise seed), when I found it at my favorite food source of all, my mom’s house.

They’re really fantastic. Great with a sharp, soft cheese as a snack, or after dinner with dark chocolate. Or anytime you walk by the kitchen.

Chinese Five Spice Candied Nuts
1 t Sichuan pepper
½ t cloves
1 T fennel seeds
3 star anise pods
1 cinnamon stick
4 T unsalted butter
2/3 cup brown sugar
1 # raw nuts (I used walnuts, pepitas and almonds)
2 t kosher salt

  • Put the pepper, cloves and fennel in a large dry frying pan and cook over medium heat until they begin to smell, about 3 minutes
  • Pour the spices into a mortar and pestle and let them cool.  
  • Grate 2 t from the cinnamon stick.  
  • Add the star anise to the mortar and pestle until all the pieces have broken down. Stir in the cinnamon.  
  • Melt the butter in the pan over medium heat. Add the nuts and sugar and stir to coat. Add 2 T of the Five Spice mixture. Continue cooking, stirring frequently, until the sugar is melted and it begins to smoke.  
  • Remove from the heat, salt, and continue stirring for a minute or two until it begins to harden.  
  • Pour the nuts onto a sheet of parchment to cool.