Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Fishy Thoughts and Oranges for Dessert

What’s cooking? A Round-up of Seafood Dishes and Oranges in Cardamom Syrup

 Again with the Lent. Seems like it was just here. And while I don’t ordinarily find some way of punishing myself for the season, I have discovered something to give up this year.

The idea came to me while I was reading the latest news from the good folks at Kellogg. Apparently, the company is launching – in a limited edition, mind you – a cereal called Unicorn Froot Loops. Really. And if you’re not offended by the spelling of “Froot,” and if the word “Unicorn” doesn’t make you want to rush out and buy some, you’ll surely be enticed by what’s in it: red, blue, and purple cereal pieces with white “crunchlets” and a “magic cupcake” flavor.

The company is so psyched about this news that they’ve opened a cereal-focused café at Union Square in Manhattan, ironically in the same area as one of the premier farmers’ markets in the country. The highlight of the café is a DIY cereal bar with more than 30 “playful toppings,” but you can also get “specialty” cereal drinks, Pop-Tarts, and ice cream sandwiches. Also an Instagram station where you can artfully photograph this crap that you’re about to shovel down your throat. Or – even better – down your kid’s throat.

Let the Kitchen Goddess offer a translation of some of these terms:
● crunchlets = pieces of candy that are cheaper to make than the actual cereal and take up weight in the box that would otherwise be actual cereal.
● magic cupcake flavor = let me take a wild guess... sugar?
● playful toppings = because I can see some of them in the website’s photos, these include marshmallows, crumbled chocolate chip cookies, multicolored white chocolate chips, jam, and what looks like crumbled energy bars drizzled with white frosting. Yum-my.

With all this in mind, I’m excited to announce that I’m giving up all Kellogg cereals for Lent.

Instead – for contrast – I’m going to focus on fish. I know that many of my friends, Catholic or not, like to observe meat-free Fridays for these 40 days. And the Kitchen Goddess supports any reasonably healthy eating habits. So we’ll start with a handful of the best fishy dishes I’ve recommended in the past. (Click on the name to get to the recipe.) And we’ll close this post with a really lovely salute to citrus season.

No-Fuss Crabby Cakes with Tartar Sauce

Fennel Flounder

Tuna-Spinach Soufflé 

Simple Salmon Cakes with Tartar Sauce

Best Broiled Fish with Roasted Fingerling Potatoes

So now that you’ve decided on dinner, let’s remember that we’re still in the heart of citrus season, and take advantage of the outstanding variety of oranges available while they’re all at their best prices.

For the dish below, the Kitchen Goddess used Cara Cara oranges and standard navel oranges. Cara Caras are also called red-fleshed navel oranges, and from the outside, the two are almost indistinguishable – at least, I haven’t found a way to tell the difference. Inside, the Cara Cara flesh is the color of ruby grapefruit but with the sweetness of standard navels, and a more complex flavor that includes hints of cherry and blackberry.

I found this recipe in a search for a way to serve stewed oranges with budino (Italian pudding). They went beautifully with the pudding, but were equally delicious the next night with nothing more than a dollop of whipped cream. You could also serve them with pound cake, angel food cake, or baked meringues (as with a Pavlova).

The strongest flavor in the syrup comes from the cardamom, a spice found frequently in dishes from Asia – India, Bhutan, Nepal, Malaysia,... Along with cinnamon, allspice, and nutmeg, it’s one of the warm spices that may remind you of fall, and it’s frequently combined with them. A little spice trivia: my research says it’s considered the queen of spices (third in price after saffron and vanilla), and is useful in treating or guarding against gastrointestinal diseases including colorectal cancer, stomach disorders and urinary tract infections, improving cholesterol and blood circulation. It’s also a remedy for nausea and vomiting. And most significantly, it has aphrodisiac properties. Better stock up! Dried seeds and pods – stored away from heat or sunlight in containers with tight-fitting lids – will keep 3-4 years. Test by crushing a small amount and smelling it – if the flavor isn’t obvious, replace it.

Kitchen Goddess notes: (1) When we finished off the oranges in the first batch, I saved the syrup and added more oranges. The syrup flavor wasn’t as strong as with the first batch, but still quite good. (2) Somewhere in the process of making the syrup, the KG decided that – because ginger and oranges are a great combo – it would be really fab to add a splash of Domaine de Canton Ginger Liqueur, or perhaps one of the orange-based liqueurs (Grand Marnier, Cointreau, Triple Sec). Then the doorbell rang and the thought went clear out of her head. She plans to try this another time, but you can try it on your first go. Please report in if you do.

Oranges in Cardamom Syrup

Adapted from Bon Appetit, January 2002

Serves 4.

Mise en place -- what you see here is cardamom seeds on the left and pods
 to their right. Either will work.
5 oranges in a combination of navel and Cara Cara
5 cardamom pods, or ½ teaspoon cardamom seeds
3 cups water
1½ cups sugar
one 5-inch long strip of lemon peel [KG note: This is the way it was described in the original recipe, but frankly, five 1-inch pieces would do, if you get my drift. You just need lemon peel.]
1 cinnamon stick
Optional: splash (1 tablespoon?) of Domaine de Canton Ginger Liqueur, or an orange-based liqueur (Grand Marnier, Cointreau, Triple Sec)

With a vegetable peeler, cut a strip of peel about an inch wide and 6 inches long from one of the oranges and set it aside. Using a sharp knife, cut the peel from all the oranges, being careful to remove as much of the white pith as possible. Slice the peeled oranges in half lengthwise and cut each half crosswise into slices about ⅓-inch thick. Transfer the oranges to a large bowl.

Use a mortar and pestle or spice grinder (I use a clean electric coffee grinder) to pulverize the cardamom pods or seeds to get ½ teaspoon of powder. Don’t worry about making it a perfectly fine powder, as you’ll be straining the syrup of solids at the end; and if you are using the pods, it’s ok to pulverize the husks as well.

In a small (2-quart) heavy saucepan over medium-high heat, combine the cardamom, orange peel, water, sugar, lemon peel, cinnamon stick, and liqueur (if using). Stir only until the sugar is dissolved. Bring the syrup to a boil, then reduce the heat enough that the mixture is only simmering. Continue simmering until the liquid is reduced to 1- 1½ cups, which will take a little more than an hour.

Once the syrup is reduced, move it off the heat and let it cool for 10 minutes. Strain through a fine sieve, and discard the solids.

Pour the warm syrup over the oranges and chill (covered) at least a couple of hours or overnight. Serve oranges with a dollop of whipped cream or over slices of pound cake or angel food cake or baked meringues. Or warm budino, for which you can find the recipe by clicking here.