30 January 2010

Winter turns to summer with the Smitten Kitchen

Ahhhh, January. In my part of the world, January means warm, sunny afternoons and cool nights. Winter for us is what spring is for people in cooler climates and it's also when citrus fruits come into season. By now, Florida grapefruit and oranges ought to be trickling into grocery stores all over the place and we're up to our elbows in them. I'm not complaining. We get the pick of the litter and most of the specialty citurs fruits that grow here never make it out of Florida. Minneolas, honeybelle tangerines, kumquats, key limes, meyer lemons, bitter oranges, blood oranges, clementines, mandarins, and the list goes on. I could live on local citrus fruit and die a happy man.

A cooking blog I like to read is Smitten Kitchen, written by Deb and Alex Perelman. Deb's a chef's chef and she prepares her delicacies in a 46 square foot kitchen on New York's Upper West Side. I love her take on food. She doesn't believe in fuss or unnecessary complication, she's about flavor and hospitality instead. Her recipes prove beyond a doubt that great food isn't dependent on fancy equipment or posh ingredients. Great food is an attitude as much as anything.

Anyhow, Deb and Alex featured a recipe that I'll be having for lunch today. I'll let you know how it goes. Here's the recipe.

Mixed Citrus Salad with Feta, Onion and Mint

3 to 4 tablespoons red onion, cut into tiny bits
4 pieces of citrus, preferably a mix of grapefruits and oranges but use what you can get, and what you like to eat (spoiled by the spread at the store, I used 1 pink grapefruit, 1 cara cara and 1 blood orange, and 1 mineola)
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar or lemon juice
1 teaspoon smooth Dijon mustard
1 tablespoon olive oil
Salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
3 to 4 tablespoons (1.5 ounces) feta cheese, chopped or crumbled
1 tablespoon fresh mint, chopped or cut into tiny slivers

Place your red onion in the bottom of a medium bowl. Nest a strainer over the bowl.

Prepare your citrus fruits by beveling the stem end of one, cutting enough off that you reveal the pith-free flesh of the fruit. Repeat on the other end. Rest your fruit on one of its now-flat surface and begin cutting the peel and pith off in large, vertical pieces. You want the fruit’s exterior to be “white”-free.

Turn the fruit back on its side and cut it into 1/4-inch thick wheels, removing any seeds and thick white stem as you do. Place the wheels and any collected juices from the cutting board in the strainer over the bowl with onion. Repeat with remaining citrus fruits. (As the extra juices drip over the bowl, it will soften the raw onion bite.)

Spread the fruit slices out on a platter. Scoop out the onion bits (a slotted spoon or fork does the trick) and sprinkle them over, leaving the juice in the bowl. Whisk one tablespoon of juice (this is all I had accumulated) with red wine vinegar or lemon juice, Dijon and olive oil. Season with salt and freshly cracked black pepper. Drizzle the dressing over the citrus, sprinkle with feta and mint, adjust salt and pepper to taste, serve immediately and daydream of warmer places.

Recipe and photos from Smitten Kitchen


  1. How was it? It looks beautiful enough to frame!

  2. Thanks for the heads up on Smitten Kitchen. Look how many subscribers they have. Wow!

  3. I bought fresh citrus at the market this morning Pam. I bought an assortment of oranges and tangerines with a pommelo thrown in for good measure. There's a cheese monger at our market who sells the best Bulgarian feta I've ever tasted. I can't wait!

    Sharon: Check out her brownie recipe from today: http://smittenkitchen.com/2010/01/best-cocoa-brownies/#more-5631

  4. I love their blog.

    Funny story: In my early blogging days, I tried to interview Deb for a kitchen article on how she uses her tiny NY kitchen. In my enthusiasm, I sent her a heap of questions that anyone in their right mind would have gulped at - I blame my inexperience back then. She never responded after that. *laughing* Not that I blame her.

    You ask her - I'm still curious how they manage in that kitchen of theirs. :)

  5. I love her sensible workarounds. She doesn't have room to store all kinds of equipment so she just makes do with the bare minimum. Witness her jury-rigged double boiler today. Brilliant!


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