Sure, winter can be a drag (both in and out of the kitchen), but there’s one ingredient in particular that makes me look forward to it: citrus. When it’s in season (which it is right now), it’s as good as summer fruit. Of course, what we get in the northeast are usually those varieties that are grown large-scale, and bred not for flavor but for shelf-life, indestructability (if that’s a word), high yield, and so on.
Wanting to see if I could get the best citrus grown in the US, I called my friend Sam Mogannam, who owns Bi-Rite Market, the fabulous grocery store in San Francisco’s Mission neighborhood, and asked — really, this was a big favor — if we could try to figure out a way to fill a pre-paid USPS shipping box with citrus and send it to my house. (We started with FedEx, which was prohibitively expensive and, incredibly, not as efficient.)
This worked, we’re on our third such box, and I’m in citrus heaven. Even better, after my request (which was really little more than a whim, though I needed Meyer lemons, kumquats, and kishus), Bi-Rite is experimenting with making these citrus boxes widely available. You can just order on their website, and a box of peak-season citrus will be shipped to your door. I can’t overstate how amazing this is (this picture kind of says it all).
Anyway, if we fawn over ramps in spring and peaches in summer, we sure as hell better celebrate citrus in Winter. So, here are a few recipes that do exactly that. To start, there’s marinated olives with citrus, which are an infinitely better homemade version of a store-bought item. They’re so good, people assume there is some sort of trick to them; there’s not. Just be sure to start with good olives (a few different kinds if possible).
Then there’s a knockout citrus salad, of which the only real requirement is that you disregard the notion that salads should be green. It’s a combination of grapefruit (I like pink), oranges (navels, common and terrific) and tangerines or clementines, with a sharp-sweet dressing of olive oil, sherry vinegar, a few drops of honey and a bit more citrus. I like a squeeze of lime, but lemon is also fine; a pinch of cayenne or a sprinkling of black pepper is all right but not essential. To peel the fruit, the easiest way is to cut off both ends at the poles so you have a flat surface to stand it upright, then cut as close to the pulp as possible, slicing off the skin in strips and removing as much bitter pith as possible.
As for main courses, we’ve got a pretty classic take on orange-flavored beef, which is more labor-intensive than the rest of these dishes, but quite impressive and still very doable on a weeknight. There’s also simple sautéed chicken cutlets with a kind of surprising sauce made with butter, lime juice, soy sauce, garlic, shallot and white wine (basically a classic pan sauce with untraditional flavors).
Interested in dessert? Try this: Halve a grapefruit and run a serrated knife around the inside rim of each half. Sprinkle the cut sides with brown sugar, and top with a few dots of butter. Broil until the sugar caramelizes, 2 to 5 minutes, depending on your broiler.
If that’s not something to look forward to this winter, I don’t know what is.
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