I am haunted by oranges. I have oranges in a bowl in my kitchen, and blood orange ice cubes in the freezer. They may be behind this orange insanity. Those blood orange ice cubes can call all they want. I can ignore them. I am saving them for future recipes.
A couple weeks ago I made a very involved flour-less orange cake that I love. The recipe requires simmering whole oranges, skin on, for two hours and then whirring them in the food processor – skin and all until they look like pumpkin puree but smell like oranges. That part’s a little disconcerting. The recipe calls for almond meal and lots of eggs and it is cooked in a spring form pan. Involved, but delicious. Especially a couple of days later when the slightly bitter flavor dissipates, and the cake is moist and yummy with a cup of coffee. On the day I bake the cake, I serve it with chocolate sauce – a fantastic combination. Joy of Cooking has a good recipe for a chocolate Cockaigne sauce that is sublime.
Last weekend, I made a very involved orange-chicken salad to take to a party. The first step is to Supreme 3 oranges, squeeze out as much juice as possible from the membranes, and save the orange segments to top the salad. You poach the chicken in the orange juice, ginger, garlic, soy sauce, and more ingredients. Then let it cool. Then shred it. Then combine it with shredded cabbage, red bells, scallions, cilantro and almonds. I Supremed, squeezed, cooked, shredded, and sliced for 3 hours to make this salad. It was delicious. Was it worth 3 hours of effort? I don’t know.
Cooking is grounding for me. Healing. But involved recipes remind me that sophisticated, complicated flavors require much more effort than most of us realize. I have fun pretending to be a sophisticated cook, creating symphonic, operatic meals. But to be honest, I much prefer cooking simply and letting fresh, local ingredients sing their songs. Simple melodies. Folk songs. Satisfying songs. Delicious songs, like the song of the orange I am going to peel and eat right now.