In 1840 William Wolfskill planted the first oranges in what were rolling fields, and is now downtown Los Angeles. These days, the shopping malls and office buildings of Southern California cover acres of land that were at one time filled with the fresh smell of the sprawling orange groves of the California citrus industry. The prevalence of California citrus is evident in many local municipal names: Orange County, Orange Grove, City of Orange, the many Orange Grove Drives, Orange Streets, and my street, Citrus Avenue.
Appropriately enough, my Spanish style house has a giant orange tree in the middle of the backyard. Every year at about Thanksgiving, the fruit on our massive orange tree ripens and we get ready to eat bowls full of orange slices and make massive quantities of juice.
This year I needed to find more recipes to make use of the orange tree, which is still going strong. After consulting with my favorite bars and restaurants around town, I had three new ways of enjoying my citrus-y harvest: a cocktail, a salad and a dessert.
First stop, the Roger Room. Bartenders there make a classic Blood & Sand with whiskey, vermouth, cherry herring and orange juice, as well as a Ward Eight with whiskey, lemon juice, orange juice, and grenadine. But my favorite is an original Roger Room creation, the Spring Street.
Mint and a sugar cube, muddled into a paste
1 1/2 oz vodka
1/2 oz of Galliano Liqueur
Shake and strain over crushed ice. Fill glass with fresh squeezed OJ, and garnish with a mint sprig.
When looking for a savory dish, I remembered seeing sardines with citrus salad served with a crushed olive pistachio vinaigrette at Sotto, an Italian restaurant. Home cooks can find sardines at Japanese markets and McCall's in Los Feliz.
Sardines alla Piastra with Sicilian Citrus Salad
4 sardines, filleted
2 scallions, julienned and shocked in ice water
1 head baby fennel, thinly sliced crosswise
1 blood orange, tangerine, or other winter citrus, cut in segments
1/2 cup parsley leaves, loosely packed
1 Tbsp canola or other cooking oil
Pinch of fleur de sel
Olive-pistachio vinaigrette (see below)
Set a cast iron or nonstick pan over high heat. Meanwhile, toss the scallions, citrus segments, sliced fennel, and parsley with the olive-pistachio vinaigrette. Season with salt to taste. Coat the hot pan with oil and sear the sardines, skin side down, until they begin to turn opaque. This should take less than a minute. When most, but not all, of each fillet is opaque, remove them from the pan. Place the fish, skin side up, on a plate. Season each fillet with a light sprinkle of the vinaigrette and a pinch of fleur de sel. Scatter the citrus salad over the sardines and serve.
Crushed Olive and Pistachio Vinaigrette
2/3 cup pitted castelvetranos
1/3 cup pitted firmer green olive, such as baresane
½ cup lightly toasted pistachios
1 small clove garlic
Marjoram, parsley, salt, pepper
Lemon juice, EVOO to taste
In a mortar and pestle, crush herbs, anchovy, salt, and pepper with half the olives into a paste. Add the pistachios and remaining olives and continue to work until all ingredients are incorporated but paste is chunky.
Whisk in lemon juice and EVOO (NOTE: this is a rustic dressing; don't emulsify), and pour.
For dessert options, we were lucky enough to convince the newly opened Short Cake to share their recipe for chiffon cake with orange curd and meringue topping. The orange curd would also be great topping for a pound cake.
Chiffon Cake with Orange Curd and Swiss Meringue
For the Orange curd:
Makes about 12 ounces
1.5 oz Orange juice
1 oz Lemon juice
2 Whole large eggs
1/3 cup sugar
Pinch of Salt
4 oz Unsalted butter, cut into ½ inch pieces
Zest of 1 orange
In a heatproof bowl, combine lemon juice, orange juice, eggs, egg yolk, sugar, and salt. Place over a pot of simmering water, and whisk together. Never let the egg mixture sit for long without stirring or the eggs will curdle. Continue whisking until mixture becomes thick and reaches 180 degrees F on a thermometer. Remove from heat and let cool, whisking occasionally to quicken the process.
Once it is cooled so that it is warm to the touch but not hot, place mixture in a food processor or stand mixer and turn on high speed. Slowly add the butter until all is incorporated. The mixture should look light and thick but still a bit runny. Add zest at the end and mix in. Chill.
For the Chiffon:
Makes a double layer 6 inch cake
1 ¼ cup all purpose flour
1 tsp Baking powder
½ c + ¼ cup Sugar
Pinch of Kosher Salt
¼ cup Canola or vegetable oil
1/3 cup Water
1 tsp Vanilla
1 tsp Orange zest
3 Egg yolks
5 Large egg whites
Pinch of cream of tartar
Preheat oven to 325 degrees.
Sift together the flour, baking powder, and ½ c of the sugar.
In a small mixing bowl, whisk together the egg yolks, water, oil, vanilla, salt, and orange zest.
Whisk egg mixture into dry mixture until very smooth.
Whip egg whites with cream of tartar and remaining ¼ c of sugar until they hold medium peaks.
Using a rubber spatula, fold in ¼ of the egg whites into mixture until incorporated and mixture is lightened. Fold in remaining whipped egg whites, being careful not to deflate the whites.
Line the bottom of two 6 inch cake pans with parchment or wax paper circle (do not spray or grease pan or cake will fall).
Divide batter evenly among the two pans and bake at 350 for 30 minutes or until nicely browned and top doesn't jiggle or feel soft to the touch.
For the Meringue:
5 Egg Whites
1 cup Granulated sugar
Pinch Kosher salt
Mix egg whites, sugar, and salt in heatproof mixing bowl until combined. Place bowl over pot of simmering water and continue whisking, making sure to keep mixture moving. Once egg white mixture reaches 120 degrees Fahrenheit, remove from heat, and place in bowl of stand mixer and using the whisk attachment, whip on high. If you do not have a stand mixer, you can use a hand mixer. Whip egg whites for about 8-12 minutes until they are glossy white and fluffy and room temperature to the touch. They should be very thick and almost a melted marshmallow consistency.
Assembling the cake:
Remove the cake rounds from the pans by cutting around the sides of the cake and flipping the cake pan over to release the cake. Flip the cake back over and trim the top with a serrated knife to make it flat. Do the same with the other cake.
Place first cake bottom-side down on serving plate or cake board. Spread about 3 tablespoons of your favorite preserves or jam (we use Sqirl's seascape strawberry thyme preserves) on the layer in an even coat. Strawberry or another berry preserve goes best.
Then spread a ¼ to ½ inch thick layer of the chilled orange curd over the preserves. Top with second cake layer, placed upside down so the flat bottom is facing up.
Spread meringue all over the cake in any design you like, and with a kitchen torch, lightly brown the outside of the meringue.
And there you have it - an entire meal featuring Caifornia's most popular winter produce!
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