Blood Orange Crostate with Salted Caramel Sauce

Blood Orange Crostate with Salted Caramel Sauce

~ Blood Orange Crostate ~

When it comes to baking, I like my desserts messy. This is not to say that I like dirty dishes or wayward, disfunctional stand-mixers. It means that I like desserts that are free-form, imprecise and often referred to as “rustic.”  Thank goodness for the generations of country kitchens which devised homey, family-style and fabulous tasting desserts. Often involving fruit and usually containing folksy and forgiving words such as crumble, slump, crisp and fool, these desserts revel in imprecision, delightfully embracing dribbles, lopsidedness and even mistakes. Sure, some technique is involved, but the overriding rule is a relaxed unfussiness with a big helping of simplicity. Bring on the mess.

Which brings me to these slightly dissheveled crostatas (actually, I believe that’s crostate in the plural). Citrus is rampant in the markets right now, and with that comes the ruby blood orange. Sweet and tart, yet more complicated than the run-of-the-mill navel, this fruit has a unique flavor which borders on murkiness. If an orange can brood, then it’s the blood orange. I must have been in the mood for brooding when I stuffed a brown bag full of them, with the plan to make a dessert for a dinner this weekend. Scanning the web for inspiration, I found this recipe on the Kitchn, and, right away, I knew these crostatas were the dessert for me: brilliantly hued, cute as can be, and appropriately messy in a rustic free-form kind of way. I tweaked the recipe a bit to my taste and included a salted caramel sauce as an accompaniment.

Blood Orange Crostate with Salted Caramel Sauce

Makes 8 – 4 inch crostatas

For the crust:
1 1/2 cup all purpose flour
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup unsalted butter, chilled, cut in cubes
1/2 cup sour cream

For the filling:
8 ounces mascarpone cheese
3 tablespoons granulated sugar, plus extra for sprinkling
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
3 blood oranges, skin and pith cut away, sliced crosswise, seeds removed
2 navel oranges, skin and pith cut away, sliced crosswise
1 egg beaten

Make the crust:
Combine flour, sugar and salt in the bowl of a food processor. Briefly pulse to combine. Add butter and pulse to achieve a crumbly consistency. Add sour cream and pulse a few times until the dough just begins to stick together. Turn dough out onto a piece of plastic wrap. Shape into a disk. Wrap and refrigerate at least one hour.

Preheat oven to 400 F. Whisk mascarpone, 3 tablespoons sugar and vanilla in a small bowl to lighten and combine.
Remove dough from refrigerator. Divide into 8 equal portions. Roll out each portion in a circle about 6 inches in diameter and 1/4-inch thick. Place a tablespoon of mascarpone in the center of the dough, spreading it slightly, while keeping one inch clear around the edge of the dough. Place a navel orange slice in the center. Dot with blood orange sections. Sprinkle the oranges with a little sugar. Fold the exposed edges of the dough in around the oranges, shaping and pinching to create a rim of crust. Transfer to a baking sheet lined with parchment. Repeat this process with remaining dough. Brush pastry dough with the egg and sprinkle the dough with a little more sugar.
Bake crostatas until crusts are firm to the touch and golden brown, about 45 minutes. Remove and cool on a rack. Serve warm or at room temperature with a spoonful of the remaining mascarpone cream.  Drizzle with Salted Caramel Sauce (recipe below).

Salted Caramel Sauce
1 cup granulated sugar
6 tablespoons European-style unsalted butter
1/2 cup heavy cream
1 teaspoon Maldon sea salt

While you are making the caramel be very careful, as the mixture will be extremely hot. Make sure that all of your ingredients are in place before you begin, since the sauce will come together very quickly. Use a high-sided heavy bottomed pot, since the caramel will foam up as it cooks. Be sure to use the best quality unsalted butter that you can find.

Add the sugar to a heavy-bottomed pot (3-4 quart) over medium-high heat. Cook until the sugar melts, whisking occasionally and swirling the pan to ensure even cooking. When the sugar is the color of dark amber, remove the pan from heat. Add the butter, taking care as it will foam. Stir until it’s melted into the sugar. Pour in the cream (it will foam again) and whisk until smooth. Add the salt. Cool the sauce completely. Makes about 1 cup. Store in a mason jar for up to two weeks.

In Season: Blood Orange and Olive Oil Cake

Blood oranges

Blood oranges are in season in California. I never know if I should eat them or just look at them. Beautifully mottled in crimson on the outside, and strikingly hued in magenta, orange and burgundy within, they are a feast for the eyes as well as the palate.

Native to Sicily, these orange gems have found their way around the world to eager consumers. In the US they grow from December to May, and now is the time to indulge in these citrus wonders. Tart and sweet with a hint of raspberry, their unique flavor complements sweet and savory dishes.

This week we have been in blood orange heaven. I received 2 brimming bags of blood oranges from a friend who has a grove of citrus trees on her property. It’s all she can do to harvest all of her fruit, and is always looking for takers. How could I say no?  Aside from eating the fruit straight up and juiced, blood oranges have found their way into salads, salsas, sauces and dressings in our meals of late. Yesterday I made a Blood Orange and Olive Oil Cake, not only with the citrus from my friend’s property, but with the olive oil her family makes from their olive trees. With all this homegrown love, I immediately thought of GYO: Grow Your Own, the foodblogging event created by Andrea’s Recipes and hosted this month by House of Annie. This is my contribution: Happy Spring!

Blood Orange Oil Cake

Blood Orange and Olive Oil Cake

Makes one loaf

Finely grated zest of two blood oranges
3/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup buttermilk
1/4 cup freshly squeezed blood orange juice
3 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 3/4 cup whole wheat pastry flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
2/3 cup fruity olive oil

Preheat oven to 350 F/180 C. Butter a loaf pan. Add zest to sugar in a large bowl and mix well to incorporate. Stir in buttermilk and juice. Add eggs one at a time, mixing well with each addition. Stir in vanilla.
Whisk flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt together in a separate bowl. Whisk into eggs. Fold in olive oil a little at a time. Pour into prepared pan. Bake until golden on top and center of a knife comes clean when inserted in the middle, about 1 hour. Remove and cool on rack 10 minutes. Remove from pan and cool completely. The flavors will develop if the cake can sit for several hours or overnight.

Mint and Feta Stuffed Leg of Lamb with Balsamic Blood Orange Sauce

Mint and Feta Stuffed Leg of Lamb with Balsamic Blood Orange Sauce

Lamb Mint Feta

Lamb, mint and feta are a match made, if not in heaven, than at least in Greece. One of my favorite preparations of lamb is to simply butterfly a leg, smear it with olive oil, garlic and salt and roast it in the oven or on the grill. In this case, I have taken the simplicity of this recipe one sweeping step further to integrate feta, mint and blood orange. A mixture of feta, mint, garlic and blood orange zest is spread on the inside of the leg, which is then rolled up and seared before roasting in the oven. While the lamb finishes in the oven, a sweet-tart reduction is made with blood orange juice, red wine and balsamic vinegar. The final flourish is a garnish of fresh mint and blood orange zest, brightening the entire dish. The angels are singing.

Mint and Feta Stuffed Leg of Lamb with Balsamic Blood Orange Sauce
Serves 4 to 6

2 pounds boneless half leg of lamb, butterflied, excess fat removed
3 garlic cloves; 1 cut in slivers, 2 minced
3 tablespoon olive oil
1 teaspoon ground cumin
freshly ground black pepper
1 1/2 cups crumbled feta cheese
1/4 mint leaves, chopped
1 tablespoon finely grated blood orange zest
1/2 cup red wine
1 cup freshly squeezed blood orange juice
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
2 teaspoons light brown sugar

Blood Orange and Mint Gremolata (see below)

Arrange lamb, fat-side down, on a work surface. Place a sheet of plastic wrap or parchment over lamb. Pound with a mallet or heavy skillet to flatten lamb in thickest parts. Remove parchment. Make shallow incisions with a small knife in the fat. Insert garlic slivers in incisions. Rub lamb all over with 1-2 tablespoons olive oil. Sprinkle cumin, 1 teaspoon salt and 1 teaspoon pepper all over lamb. (The lamb may be prepared to this point up to 12 hours in advance. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate.)

Preheat oven to 375 F. Combine feta, mint, orange zest and minced garlic in a small bowl. Add 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper. Place lamb on work surface, fat-side down. Spread feta over lamb, leaving a 1″ border all around. Roll up meat to enclose filling, tucking in ends if possible. Tie with kitchen string in 1-2 ” intervals.

Heat one tablespoon olive oil in skillet over medium-high heat. Add lamb, seam-side down. Sear on all sides, about 6 minutes. Transfer to baking pan. Roast in oven until instant read thermometer reads 140 F, basting occasionally, about 40 minutes. Remove from oven. Cover with foil and let rest 10 minutes.

While lamb is roasting, deglaze skillet. Add red wine to pan, scraping up any bits from lamb. Reduce by half. Add blood orange juice, balsamic vinegar and brown sugar. Simmer, stirring, until thickened. Strain. Add 1/2 teaspoon salt, or to taste.  Discard strings from lamb. Cut in 1″ slices. Scoop up any extra cheese that may have oozed into the pan, and spoon it over the lamb. Serve drizzled with balsamic blood orange sauce and garnished with Blood Orange and Mint Gremolata.

Blood Orange and Mint Gremolata

1/2 cup mint leaves, chopped
2 teaspoons blood orange zest
1 small garlic clove, minced

Toss the ingredients together in a small bowl. Serve with lamb.

Grilled Feta with Blood Orange, Red Pepper and Mint Salsa

This recipe for grilled feta is a perfect contrast in textures and temperatures. Thick feta slices are grilled in a bath of olive oil until golden brown, then served warm with a cool, crunchy, citrus-y salsa. The dish can be served straight from the oven, or if you wish, arrange the feta on a serving plate and spoon the olive oil around it. This rustic appetizer is meant to be eaten family style, so plop the plate in the middle of the table and pass everyone a spoon. Scoop out chunks of feta, spread it on a slice of rustic bread and top with salsa and a dribble of olive oil.Grilled Feta with Blood Orange, Red Pepper and Mint Salsa

Feta cheese lends itself well to grilling; it browns nicely and softens somewhat, but doesn’t lose it’s shape. Serves 4 as an appetizer.

For the salsa:

1 blood orange, skin, seeds and membrane removed, cut in 1/4″ pieces
1 small sweet red pepper, stemmed and seeded, finely dinced
1 small red onion, finely diced
1/4 cup chopped fresh mint leaves
2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon salt, or to taste
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Combine all the ingredients together in a large bowl. Mix well to combine.

For the feta:

1 teaspoon cumin seeds
1 teaspoon coriander seeds
1/2 teaspoon black peppercorns
1/2 pound block of feta cheese
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
Fresh whole mint leaves for garnish

Toast cumin and coriander seeds in a dry skillet over medium heat until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Transfer to a mortar with pestle. Add peppercorns. Grind until fine.
Preheat oven broiler. Drain feta and pat dry with a kitchen towel. Pat spices on all sides of feta. Cut in 1/2″ slices. Arrange feta slices in a baking pan. Drizzle with olive oil. Grill in oven until edges turn golden.
Arrange slices on a serving plate. (I like to try and return it to its original block shape.) Spoon olive oil around feta. Top feta with salsa. Garnish with mint leaves. Serve immediately with pita bread, crostini or peasant bread.

Roasted Red Beet, Blood Orange and Ginger Soup with Orange Crème Fraîche

Roasted Red Beet, Blood Orange and Ginger Soup with Orange Crème Fraîche

Red Beet Blood Orange Soup

Beets: I cannot help but be seduced by their brilliant color and their nutritional riches, yet their flavor has proven a more trying relationship. Perhaps I have been marred by unfortunate events in my past involving pickled versions in bottles that were redolent of, well, dirt.  This aversion has kept me at arm’s length from the enjoyment of these visually evocative root vegetables, and, ultimately, has been my loss. So, recently I decided to take matters into my own hands and learn how to love beets.

I began by roasting them. The roasting process seems to tame the beet’s unique earthiness, especially when combined with salt, olive oil and a little garlic. I then moved on to salads and found that beets work well when they are one component of many and combined with other distinctive flavors and textures: walnuts, ricotta salata, arugula and mint, for example. After some experimenting with composing salads with beets, I was emboldened. My next step was to make a soup. Looking to the salad for inspiration, I blended beets with several strong-flavored ingredients, paying attention to the balance of sweet, sour, and spice. I chose bold tastes I love, and that is how I arrived at this soup. The beets were present in flavor, but not overpowering. Their earthiness was tamped down by the brightness of citrus and the spiciness of ginger. Chile pepper added a kick and honey sweetened and smoothed out the soup. Topped with a cooling dollop of orange infused crème fraîche, the soup was exciting and fresh, giving the sense of multi-textures, even though it was puréed. The only overpowering presentation of the beets was in the soup’s intense magenta color – which is one thing I have always loved about beets.

Roasted Red Beet, Blood Orange and Ginger Soup with Orange Crème Fraîche

Orange juice may be substituted for the blood orange juice. The soup is best served warm (not hot) or at room temperature with a dollop of cool crème fraîche.  Serves 3-4.

4 large red beets
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 small yellow onion, chopped
2 tablespoons freshly grated ginger
1 large garlic clove, minced
1 small serrano chile pepper, stemmed, seeded, chopped, about 2 tablespoons
1 cup water
1 cup blood orange juice
1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lime juice
1 tablespoon honey
1 teaspoon salt, or more to taste
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro leaves, plus additional whole leaves for garnish

Orange Crème Fraîche (recipe below)
2 blood orange slices, cut in half

Preheat the oven to 375 F. Trim the tops and ends of the beets. Place in a baking dish and fill water up to 1 inch in the bottom of the dish. Roast the beets in oven until tender, about 1 hour. Remove and cool. Peel off skin and cut beets in chunks.

Heat the olive oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add the onion and sauté until nearly translucent without coloring, about 3 minutes. Add the ginger, garlic and serrano chile; sauté 30 seconds. Add the beets and 1 cup water. Cover and simmer 10 minutes; the vegetables should be very soft. Cool slightly. Transfer to a food processor or blender. Add the orange juice and purée until smooth. Return to the saucepan. (If soup is too thick, thin to desired consistency with additional orange juice. It should not be too thin.) Stir in the lime juice and honey. Add the salt and pepper and taste to adjust seasoning. Serve warm or at room temperature. Before serving stir in 2 tablespoons fresh cilantro leaves. Ladle into bowls. Top with a spoonful of Orange Crème Fraîche. Garnish with whole cilantro leaves and a slice of blood orange.

Orange Crème Fraîche:

1/2 cup crème fraîche (or Greek-style whole milk yogurt)
2 tablespoons orange juice
Combine crème fraîche and orange juice in small bowl. Serve with soup.