Monthly Archives: February 2015

It’s Citrus Season!

Although I generally don’t care for fruit in savory dishes, I’m falling for the idea of winter salads sparked with citrus. You can’t count on tomatoes for flavor this time of year but oranges, tangerines and even pink grapefruits are at their best, contributing both flavor punch and color pop. And there is no shortage of recipes incorporating citrus everywhere you look.

The other night I tried a riff on a broccoli, naval orange and peanut side dish, which involved roasting thin slices of the fruit in a 425 degree oven for 10- or 15 minutes and dicing the slightly charred, chewy skinned result with roasted broccoli stems and florets sauteed in a dry pan until a bit blackened. The recipe, which called for some ingredients that I didn’t have, wasn’t a total success, but the contrast of orange and green was uplifting and the fruit was interesting enough that I’ll try roasting oranges again.

If you want to add fresh orange to a salad or side, don’t just peel the fruit and use the segments. They’re likely to be bitter, since it’s hard to entirely remove the pith. Create “supremes” by slicing the skin down to the pulp with a sharp paring knife. Then slice on either side of the membranes until the sections are released.

Do You Have To Brown the Meatballs?

Is it important to fry or bake meatballs before you add them to the sauce to finish cooking? It’s up to you, according to Giada de Laurentiis, who appeared on The Today Show recently to demonstrate her recipe for Orzo Meatballs (link below).

My habit is to bake meatballs in a 350 degree oven until browned, turning them once. But Giada’s recipe skips browning and goes directly to simmering the balls in the sauce until the orzo is tender.

Watching this segment got me thinking about other time-consuming steps that might be unnecessary. I have little patience browning floured beef cubes for stew, but I always go to the trouble. Is it essential? My mom’s beef stew was delicious, although she didn’t flour or even brown the meat first. She didn’t even thicken the gravy.

And while many people peel eggplant and salt the slices before breading them for parmesan, I never do. I opt for medium-sized eggplants, and so far the result has never been tough or bitter.

I’m planning to do a little experiment. Next time I make meatballs, I’m going to only brown half of them. Who knows, perhaps, they’ll be the last meatballs I ever brown.

Best Brownies

I’m speaking of the brownies that my mom used to make. Fudgy, Cake-like little delectables, they were one of her staples. So when I decided to serve brownies to the ski group, I checked my dessert file and was amazed and overjoyed to fish up the recipe, written in my mom’s own dear script. I’d had no idea it was there and I had never attempted to reproduce them.

Unfortunately, the instructions seemed more like shorthand for her own information than a detailed recipe I could follow. It didn’t say what size pan to use or indicate how many brownies the recipe would yield. And I really didn’t get the final notation: “Refrigerate immediately until cold-cut in squares.” Ordinarily, I would have let the cake cool before refrigerating, but I didn’t dare deviate.

In fact, although there are all sorts of marvelous chocolates available for baking now, I bought the Baker’s bitter that mom recommended. The recipe called for only 4 squares, which threw me a bit until I read the package and learned that the company had reconfigured the bar since my mother’s day. The squares used to be twice as large, so I substituted 8.

Although the somewhat similar brownie recipe printed inside the Baker’s chocolate package called for a 9 X 13 inch baking pan, I thought that I remembered that my mother always used a square Pyrex pan, which resulted in thicker brownies. My brother had the same recollection, so that’s what I used.

The resulting brownies were as delicious as I recalled and were a hit with the dinner group. In fact, later in the week, when someone asked if there were any brownies left, there wasn’t one to be had.

Here’s the recipe:


½ pound salt butter

8 squares chocolate-Baker’s bitter, chopped

4 eggs

Scant 2 cups sugar

1 cup flour. Do NOT sift.

1 teaspoon vanilla

1 cup chopped walnuts


Combine the butter and chopped chocolate in a bowl and microwave on high for about two minutes until the butter is completely melted. Stir to combine until the mixture is smooth.

Stir in the sugar. Blend in eggs and vanilla. Add flour and walnuts. Mix well.

Pour into prepared pan.

Bake in 350 degree oven for 45 minutes. Refrigerate immediately until cold. Cut into squares. Yields 16 two-inch squares.