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Citrus Salad, Almond Cake And More Winter Dinner Recipes

Citrus Salad, Almond Cake And More Winter Dinner Recipes

The market report from where I am (Los Angeles): Winter citrus is here, hallelujah. Stalls are full of tangerines, many with stems and leaves attached. Satsumas are back, easy to peel and sweet and sour, just like their cousins, the miniature two-bite Kishus, amazing little fruits.

And oranges. Juicy navels are in full swing and blood oranges – with their flesh and skin the color of a sunset, their red juice almost tropical – have finally arrived.

There’s so much more: Cara Cara oranges, with their coral insides; small grapefruits, both ruby ​​and Oro Blanco; kumquats, even tangerine quats; huge and enchanting pomelos. An assortment of all of them would make a dazzling salad, I thought.

A Orange Salad can be a simple affair, and at best the ultimate refreshing dish. With a few black olives and a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil you have a winning combination, popular in the eastern Mediterranean, southern Italy and perhaps especially Morocco.

You can increase the interest factor in many ways. Add thinly sliced ​​fennel and red onion, some arugula, mint or basil leaves, a pinch of red pepper, a pinch of wild oregano, a little flaky salt. Make it as luxurious or simple as you want. The salad can be just one type of citrus or many.

To follow, I thought back to a few years ago when I developed a recipe for a savory baked arborio rice dish. I called it risotto al forno and was rightly reprimanded by my old friend, Italian food expert Faith Willinger. “Don’t call it risotto,” was her curt message. I get it. Only risotto is risotto, stirred lovingly, and it’s meant to be served right out of the pan as soon as it’s done.

And yet there is a more homely rice dish known to many Italians as riso al forno. Sausage, tomato, cheese and rice in the oven, it’s a weekday casserole, not very elegant but very tasty.

I had the idea to marry the two concepts a nice make-ahead casserole full of seafood, and left with very nice results, but I knew better than to call it risotto. I did, however, cook the rice using the classic risotto method, which isn’t a big deal. It just means standing by the stove and stirring occasionally, slowly sipping a glass of wine. The trick is to keep the rice slightly cooked so it doesn’t get mushy while baking.

I folded a pound of fresh crabmeat into the saffron-scented rice — luxurious, to be sure — and put it all in a casserole dish. Then I topped it with fatty shrimp in their shells and showered them with breadcrumbs. I can say that it was something beautiful and worth a real celebration. When tasting, it seemed a bit paella-like, but somehow a bit Creole. Instead of serving it with a hollandaise sauce (for the Creole aspect), I made a little sauce with crème fraîche, Dijon mustard, lemon zest and chives.

For dessert, I was inspired by my friend Salvatore Messina, who bakes a cake and brings it to a dinner party without skipping a beat. It’s happened countless times over the years, to everyone’s delight, and he always makes the same one, a deliciously tender almond cake with a hint of lemon. Made simply from blanched almonds, eggs, and sugar, it’s even gluten-free.

I ended up wrangling the recipe from him. Since it bears some resemblance to other Italian almond cakes, I naturally assumed it belonged to his family, passed down through his Sicilian grandmother. But it turned out to have no Italian storyline. Sal took it from a recipe for torta de Santiago, the traditional almond cake from Galicia, Spain.

Named after Santiago (St. James, St. Jacques, San Giacomo), the cake dates back to the Middle Ages and its original recipe is equal parts almonds, eggs and sugar. Sal’s modern Italianate adaptation has less sugar, more orange zest, and no cinnamon. It’s heavenly.

Although it used to be known as Sal’s Almond Cake, I call it now Torta Salvatorea perfect ending to this slightly decadent menu.

Recipes: Citrus Salad With Fennel And Olives | Riso al Forno With Crab And Shrimp | Almond biscuit