I was originally intending to share this recipe with you, except the feta frozen yogurt turned out tasting like stale socks. No, doesn’t sound enticing? I don’t think so either.
What redeemed the recipe for me was this granita, which is meant to accompany the froyo kind of like a sidekick. An outrageous and daring one. That ended up stealing the show. First to enter the stage is the bright punch of blood orange, vibrant and vivacious, a vixen if you will. In typical two-step fashion, the mint comes later and imparts its cooling aftertaste reminiscent of my favorite beverage: the mojito.
I’m happy I have something to show for my efforts. And is it something! My magpie tendencies kicked into high gear after I’d crunched it up with a fork. All I wanted to do was bottle it up and hold it captive to the light. But, looks aren’t everything, and in this case, this granita functions perfectly as a guilt-free dessert. I mean, it’s basically a deconstructed sno-cone minus the artificial flavoring and more gorgeously-flavored.
Granitas are so simple to make! More clean-up than preparation, you basically juice and zest the heck out of blood oranges (I believe the proper term is ‘pulverize’ haha), toss a handful of mint in, and blend. Run the sludgy liquid through a sieve, freeze the remains, and ta-da! The granita is born.
My favorite food group is fruit, and citruses are probably my favorite fruit group. While the fruit world never fails to delight, I think we need their effervescence most this time of the year. Their brightness counterbalances the season’s otherwise drab palette (which a visit to the farmer’s market demonstrates with rows and rows of… potatoes), and I could eat them endlessly.
If there’s one time where I truly feel food is too beautiful to eat, it’s now.
I am newly but officially in love with Cara Cara oranges. You would never guess that such an ordinary exterior gives way to the most vividly orange interior. And they taste so perfect, as sweet as can be. Blood oranges are pretty rad themselves. Their brilliant flesh intensifies any salad, flashes of ruby red and very showy. And meyer lemons, well, given this blog’s name, I think it’s pretty clear where I stand on lemons.
Unfortunately, they’re not very easy to come by here in New York. But that fact only makes them dearer. In fact, I think the overall inaccessibility of fruit has only emphasized just how important they are to me.
This salad is exactly what you should be eating now. We’re all coming out of the previous year feeling slightly shameful of our holiday excess, with renewed vows to eat thoughtfully and healthily. It’s like citruses came along just in time to save the day.
To keep this from being a fruit salad, by which I mean inherently sweet, there’s a fried rosemary and olive topping that adds just the right note of bitterness. I also decided to put everything over a bed of arugula and generously sprinkle sea salt on top, which heightens this salad’s savory nature. And with the addition Meyer lemon, I believe we cover all of the basic tastes: bitterness, sweetness, sourness, and saltiness. (Don’t mention umami, okay? Unless you want to throw in some mushrooms and call it a day.)
I’ll leave you with this quote from The Shipping News. I think it pretty much sums up my spirit:
“Suddenly he could see his father, see the trail of ground cherry husks leading from the garden around the edge of the lawn where he walked while he ate them. The man had a passion for fruit. Quoyle remembered purple-brown seckle pears the size and shape of figs, his father taking the meat off with pecking bites, the smell of fruit in their house, litter of cores and peels in the ashtrays, the grape cluster skeletons, peach stones like hens’ brains on the windowsill, the glove of banana peel on the car dashboard. In the sawdust on the basement workbench galaxies of seeds and pits, cherry stones, long white date pits like spaceships. Strawberries in the refrigerator, and in June the car parked on a country road and the father on his knees picking wild strawberries in the weeds. The hollowed grapefruit skullcaps, cracked globes of tangerine peel.”
I don’t have a recipe to share, just the beginnings of a process. While I’m mostly there in muscle work, the wait has just begun.
The story starts with ten Meyer lemons, four of which are present in the shots below. They were gifts from my sister, who gave them to me, freshly purchased from the farmer’s market, right before Chris and I left for the airport. The precious bundle became part of my check-in baggage, wedged carefully under the seat ahead of me much to the amusement of the passenger to my left. Clearly he didn’t realize they weren’t ordinary lemons.
For days, I contemplated what I would make, all the endless possibilities, but my mind had already made itself up. It was going to be preserved lemons. I’d been thinking about making my own for awhile, but my hangup has always been the fact that the jar would be sitting on the counter at room temperature for days. Doesn’t botulism develop under such conditions?
But how exactly does botulism develop in a jarful of acid and salt? Reason conquered dramatics. Plus, I sterilized my jar.
You start with a sterilized jar (I’m not sure how necessary this step is, but do it just to be safe) and however many of these babies you think will fit in it snugly. (I ended up misjudging, thinking I could fit four lemons in a 12-oz. mason jar when it only fit three. But my lemons were huge.) Make sure to scrub them very very well, because the peel is what you’ll be eating.
Chop off the tops, then slice each lemon into four segments…
… stopping a little short of the end so that they’re still attached.
Then, using non-iodized salt (iodized imparts an unpleasant taste), stuff each lemon with about 1 Tbsp of salt. Rub the salt all over (but watch those tiny paper cuts and hangnails as they will sting!), jam it in.
Cover the bottom of the jar with a layer of salt, and then squelch a lemon in. Push it in hard, so that the juices squirt out.
Between lemons, add more salt, and spices if you decide to use them (some choices include whole black peppercorns, cinnamon sticks, dried bay leaves, cloves, coriander seeds). I would spice sparingly.
In the end, I managed to fit three lemons in the jar very snugly. (I considered preparing a second jar, since I’d already prepared a fourth lemon, but in case the jarring doesn’t go well, I’d like to have lemons left over to make other delicious things with.) And they were very juicy, so I was able to cover the lemons with the juice. If the wedges are not covered, squeeze in more juice until it covers the wedges. Make sure there’s some air space left behind (I’m afraid my jar is too full, but let’s see, shall we?).
Screw on the lid, and you’re done!
Now, The Wait. Leave the jar on the counter for the next few days, giving it a shake every now and then to distribute the salt and juices. Transfer the jar to the fridge and let it sit another month or so. Give it a shake every now and then.
Alright, in true journalistic fashion (this is very serious reportage here), I’ll report on the progress of my preserved lemons every week or so and give you guys an update. (This is kind of like a reality show, isn’t it?) And when they’re finally ready… well, those tantalizing thoughts are best buried in the back of the mind, but I’ll be featuring recipes here, that’s for sure!