Blood Orange Crostate with Salted Caramel Sauce

When Imperfect Desserts are Perfect:

Blood Orange Crostata with Caramel Sauce

When it comes to baking, I like my desserts messy – which is to say 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 more-ish 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 (tarte tatin, we are looking at you). Sure, some technique is involved, but the overriding rule is a relaxed un-fussiness with a big helping of simplicity. Bring on the mess.

Blood Orange Crosatas

Which brings me to these *slightly* disheveled crostatas (actually, I believe that’s crostate in the plural). Citrus is abundant right now, and with that comes the ruby blood orange. Sweet and tart, murky and winey, the blood orange is more nuanced than its navel counterpart, and its brilliant hue is a sight to behold when presented in desserts. I brought a bag of these oranges this past weekend, and made this recipe. It takes inspiration from a recipe I found years ago on The Kitchn, to which I’ve added my own tweaks – including a sour cream crust and a luscious salted caramel sauce for drizzling.

Blood Orange Crostate with Salted Caramel Sauce

Active Time: 30 minutes
Total Time: 1 hour and 15 minutes, plus 1 hour chilling time
Makes 8 (4-inch) crostate

For the crust:
1 1/2 cups 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, room temperature
3 tablespoons granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon
2 navel oranges, skin and pith cut away, sliced crosswise, about 1/4-inch thick
3 blood oranges, skin and pith cut away, seeded and sliced crosswise, about 1/4-inch thick, each slice cut into 3 to 4 sections
1 egg beaten
8 teaspoons demarra sugar, for sprinkling

1. Make the crust: Combine the flour, sugar, and salt in the bowl of a food processor. Briefly pulse to combine. Add the butter and pulse to achieve a crumbly consistency. Add the sour cream and pulse a few times until the dough just begins to stick together. Turn the dough out onto a piece of plastic wrap and shape into a disk. Wrap and refrigerate for at least one hour.
2. Preheat the oven to 400°F.
3. Whisk the mascarpone, sugar, vanilla, and cinnamon in a small bowl to lighten and combine.
4. Remove the dough from the refrigerator and 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 about 1 inch clear around the border of the dough. Place a navel orange slice in the center. Top with 3 to 4 blood orange sections. Fold the exposed edges of the dough in around the oranges, shaping and pinching to create a rim of crust (the centers will still be exposed). Transfer to a baking sheet lined with parchment and repeat this process with the remaining dough.
5. Brush the pastry dough with the egg and sprinkle each crostata with about 1 teaspoon demarra sugar. Transfer to the oven and bake until the crusts are firm to the touch and golden brown, about 45 minutes. Remove and cool on a rack. Serve warm or at room temperature, drizzled with Salted Caramel Sauce (recipe below).

Salted Caramel Sauce
Makes about 1 cup sauce

1 cup granulated sugar
6 tablespoons European-style unsalted butter, room temperature, cut into 4 pieces
1/2 cup heavy cream, room temperature
1 teaspoon fleur de sel sea salt flakes, such Maldon

1. Pour the sugar into a large heavy-bottomed saucepan. Cook over medium-high heat until the sugar melts, whisking occasionally and swirling the pan to ensure even cooking. The sugar may clump, but that’s ok – keep stirring until it melts. When the sugar is the color of dark amber, carefully whisk in the butter (it will foam).
2. Remove the pan from the heat and slowly pour in the cream (it will foam again) and whisk until smooth. Add the salt. Cool for about 10 minutes and then pour into a glass jar and cool to room temperature. The sauce may be stored in the refrigerator for up to 1 month.

Blood Orange Crostate with Salted Caramel Sauce

Looking for a comforting and more-ish dessert?

When it comes to baking, I like my desserts messy, which is to say 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 more-ish 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 (tarte tatin, we are looking at you). 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 disheveled crostatas (actually, I believe that’s crostate in the plural). Citrus is abundant right now, and with that comes the ruby blood orange. Sweet and tart, murky and winey, the blood orange is more nuanced than its navel counterpart, and its brilliant hue is a sight to behold when presented in desserts. I brought a bag of these oranges this past weekend, and made this recipe. It takes inspiration from a recipe I found years ago on The Kitchn, to which I’ve added my own tweaks – including a luscious salted caramel sauce drizzled over the crostate when serving.

Blood Orange Crostate with Salted Caramel Sauce

Active Time: 30 minutes
Total Time: 1 hour and 15 minutes, plus 1 hour chilling time
Makes 8 (4-inch) crostate and 1 cup caramel sauce

For the crust:
1 1/2 cups 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, room temperature
3 tablespoons granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon
3 blood oranges, skin and pith cut away, seeded and sliced crosswise, about 1/4-inch thick, each slice cut into 3 to 4 sections
2 navel oranges, skin and pith cut away, sliced crosswise, about 1/4-inch thick
1 egg beaten
Demarra sugar for sprinkling

1. Make the crust: Combine flour, sugar, and salt in the bowl of a food processor. Briefly pulse to combine. Add the butter and pulse to achieve a crumbly consistency. Add the sour cream and pulse a few times until the dough just begins to stick together. Turn the dough out onto a piece of plastic wrap and shape into a disk. Wrap and refrigerate for at least one hour.
2. Preheat the oven to 400°F.
3. Whisk the mascarpone, sugar, vanilla, and cinnamon in a small bowl to lighten and combine.
4. Remove the dough from the refrigerator and 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 about 1 inch clear around the border of the dough. Place a navel orange slice in the center. Top with 3 to 4 blood orange sections. Fold the exposed edges of the dough in around the oranges, shaping and pinching to create a rim of crust (the centers will still be exposed). Transfer to a baking sheet lined with parchment and repeat this process with the remaining dough.
5. Brush the pastry dough with the egg and sprinkle each crostate with about 1 teaspoon demarra sugar.
6. Bake the crostate until the crusts are firm to the touch and golden brown, about 45 minutes. Remove and cool on a rack. Serve warm or at room temperature, drizzled with Salted Caramel Sauce (recipe below).

Salted Caramel Sauce

1 cup granulated sugar
6 tablespoons European-style unsalted butter, room temperature
1/2 cup heavy cream, room temperature
1/2 teaspoon Maldon sea salt

1. Pour the sugar into a large heavy-bottomed saucepan. Cook over medium-high heat 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.
2. Carefully add the butter (it will foam) and stir until melted into the sugar. Carefully pour in the cream (it will foam again) and whisk until smooth. Add the salt. Cool slightly and then pour into a glass jar and then cool the sauce completely.

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.

Leg of Lamb with Feta, Mint, and Blood Orange Sauce

Lamb Mint Feta

Lamb, mint and feta are a match made, if not in heaven, then 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 and Pistachio Gremolata
Serves 6

2 1/2 pounds boneless half leg of lamb, butterflied, excess fat removed
3 tablespoon olive oil, divided
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
Salt
Freshly ground black pepper
3 garlic cloves, divided
XX ounces crumbled feta cheese, about 1 1/2 cups
1/4 cup mint leaves, chopped
1 tablespoon fresh thyme 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
1 thyme sprig
2 teaspoons light brown sugar
1 thyme sprig

Pistachio-Mint Gremolata:
1/2 cup (packed) mint leaves
1/2 cup (packed) Italian parsley leaves
1/3 cup shelled pistachios
1 small garlic clove
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon finely grated blood orange zest
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

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 the flatten lamb in the thickest parts. The goal is to have as uniform a thickness as possible. Remove the parchment and make shallow incisions with a small knife in the fat. Cut 2 garlic cloves in slivers and insert a sliver in each incision.

Whisk 2 tablespoons oil, the cumin, coriander, 1 teaspoon salt, and 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper in a small bowl. Rub the oil mixture all over the lamb. (The lamb may be prepared to this point up to 12 hours in advance. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate. Remove from the refrigerator 30 minutes before proceeding.)

Preheat the oven to 375 F. Combine the feta, mint, thyme, orange zest, 1 minced clove garlic, and the 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper in a medium bowl.

Place the lamb on a work surface, fat-side down. Spread the feta over the lamb, leaving a 1 to 1 1/2-inch border clear on all sides. Starting with a long side, roll the meat up to enclose the filling, tucking in the ends if possible. Tie with kitchen string in 1 1/2 to 2-inch intervals.

Heat one tablespoon olive oil in large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the lamb, seam-side down. Sear until well marked on all sides, turning as needed, 6 to 8 minutes. Transfer the lamb to a baking pan and roast in the oven until an instant read thermometer inserted in the thickest part of the meat reads 140 F, about 40 minutes, basting occasionally. Remove from oven, cover loosely with foil, and let rest 10 minutes.

While the lamb is roasting, deglaze the skillet. Add the red wine to the pan, scraping up any bits from lamb, and reduce by half. Add the blood orange juice, balsamic vinegar, thyme, and brown sugar. Simmer, stirring, until slightly reduced, about XX minutes. Add 1/2 teaspoon salt, or to taste and strain (optional).

Combine the mint, parsley, pistachios, and garlic in the bowl of a food processor and pulse to coarsely chop. Add the oil, zest, salt, and pepper, and pulse to blend without forming a paste. The consistency should be finely chopped with a crumbly consistency.

Discard the strings from lamb. Cut in 3/4-inch thick slices. Serve on warm plates, drizzled with the balsamic blood orange sauce and sprinkled with the gremolata.

Grilled Feta with Blood Orange, Red Pepper and Mint Salsa


Feta
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.