Winter Citrus with Sweet and Tart
Citrus season has officially arrived, and we can't get enough of our favorite fruits for brightening the midwinter months. In search of fresh ideas for citrus on the menu, we turned to Carla Snyder, the blogger behind Ravenous Kitchen and author of Sweet and Tart, a new collection of citrus-centered baking recipes. We chatted with Carla about all things citrus, and she shared the recipe for one of her favorite winter desserts-- a beautiful, blood orange panna cotta.
terrain: Why do you love baking with citrus? How did Sweet and Tart take shape?
Carla: I love lemon, and anything citrus flavored, really. As a little girl, I would eat lemons sprinkled with salt. I'd thought about writing a citrus-themed book for years, and my editor suggested a focus on baking. While creating the recipes, I tried to choose citrus varieties that are easy to procure. I live in a small town in Ohio, so I feel confident that if I can find a particular variety, anyone can find it in their area.
terrain: What first sparked your interest in cooking and baking?
Carla: Even as a child, I liked to bake and cook. I went to Spain to study during college, and while I was there I realized that a lot of people "live to eat." The food was so delicious, and my travels really woke me up to a world of food. I got married and had children very soon after college, and around that time I took all of my dad's old Gourmet magazines and started cooking from them. It was perfect for me-- a creative outlet that was also feeding my family! Eventually I began catering, then teaching at a cooking school, and finally writing cookbooks. I have a degree in journalism, so I feel like things came full circle. I was always supposed to write, and now I've found what I should write about!
terrain: Why is citrus a great ingredient for the colder months? What are some of your favorite citrus varieties to cook with in winter?
Carla: Winter is when citrus really shines. It's the season when I'm most excited about eating and using citrus fruits, and when all of the different varieties are at their best. Citrus flavors also wake up the taste buds in winter, when most other fruits aren't in season. The other day I made brownies with orange zest, and that little bit of zest made all the difference! Recently, I've been loving mineolas (a type of tangelo)-- their zest is a delicious addition to chicken stew.
terrain: What are some of your go-to citrus recipes?
Carla: Whenever I need to bring a dish to a party, I choose the Triple-Citrus Tart. It looks beautiful, and I guarantee you won't be taking any leftovers home! For the warmer months, I love the savory Summer Tart with Lemon and Sun-Dried Tomatoes-- a really easy, wonderful appetizer. When I'm hosting friends for dinner, I usually make a Lemon-Almond Cake. It's moist, amazingly delicious, and best of all, very simple to make. Topped with mixed berries and basil, it has a bright appearance and a hint of unexpected flavor. Finally, I love Blood Orange Panna Cotta as a winter dessert. It's the most beautiful color, and I like to top it with a blood orange compote for serving.
Blood Orange Panna Cotta with Blood Orange Compote
1/2 cup fresh blood orange juice, plus zest of 2 blood oranges
1 Tablespoon fresh lemon juice
2 1/2 teaspoons unflavored gelatin
1 cup whipping cream
1/2 cup sugar
1 vanilla bean, split lengthwise
Pinch of kosher salt
1 1/2 cups buttermilk
Lightly oil 6 1-cup ramekins. Combine the blood orange juice and lemon juice in a small bowl. Sprinkle gelatin over the top and let soften for 5 minutes. Combine the cream, sugar, vanilla bean, salt, and blood orange zest in a small saucepan over medium heat and bring to a simmer. Remove from the heat, pour into the gelatin mixture, and stir until the gelatin has dissolved. Cover and let steep for 30 minutes to blend the flavors. With a slotted spoon, transfer the vanilla bean halves to a cutting board. Using the flat side of the knife, run the blade down the length of the bean to remove the seeds. Add the seeds to the cream. Discard the pod (or rinse and dry it and reserve for another use).
Pour the buttermilk into a large measuring cup with a pouring spout. Strain the cream mixture through a fine-mesh strainer into the buttermilk and stir to combine. Divide the panna cotta among the prepared ramekins, cover, and refrigerate until set, about 4 hours.
Run a sharp knife around the edges of each ramekin to break the suction, place a serving plate over the top, and invert so the panna cotta releases onto the plate. If it doesn't release, dip the bottom of the ramekin into hot water for a few seconds and try again. Garnish with blood orange compote to serve.
1/2 cup water
1/4 cup sugar
2 Tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 vanilla bean, split lengthwise
Zest of blood orange, plus 3 blood oranges, peeled and sectioned
Combine the water, sugar, lemon juice, vanilla bean, and blood orange zest in a small saucepan over medium heat and bring to a simmer. Turn the heat to low and simmer until syrupy, about 5 minutes. Remove the vanilla bean and scrape the seeds into the syrup, discarding the pod. Let the syrup cool completely, then add the blood orange sections. Cover and refrigerate for at least 1 hour, or up to 24 hours.
Photos via Sweet and Tart by Carla Snyder. Photographs by Nicole Franzen. 2015, Chronicle Books.