If you’re still trying to plan your holiday menu, don’t forget about citrus.
Featured in my latest Season to Taste column in the Joy magazine, these fruits are never better than this time of year, hence their status as stocking stuffers in bygone days. An updated version, perhaps, is pairing fresh citrus zest with a good-quality salt to make a seasoning blend for the cook on your list. See instructions in a new story on our Holiday 101 page.
Although not destined for gift-giving, boxes of clementines (aka “Christmas oranges”) show up in most of our homes this month. But the full spectrum of oranges and their ilk — mandarins, tangerines and tangelos — are coming into their own and constitute the freshest flavors you could put on your table for Christmas.
Citrus is an obvious ingredient for tempering rich, fatty foods, like duck or goose. Planning to roast the former, I’m revisiting a recipe posted to this blog four years ago featuring kumquats (technically not in the citrus genus). But if they aren’t available, I could just as easily substitute clementines or another variety.
After all the heavy holiday food, citrus makes the perfect, palate-cleansing dessert course. Consider this light, elegant pudding with another of my favorite ingredients, orange-blossom water.
1 tablespoon finely grated tangelo zest (from 2 to 3 tangelos)
1 tablespoon sugar
3 tablespoons cornstarch
Pinch of salt
2 cups freshly squeezed tangelo juice (from 10 to 12 tangelos)
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1 tablespoon orange-blossom water
1 1⁄2 teaspoons honey
In a small bowl using a fork or spoon, smash the tangelo zest with the sugar to moisten sugar with fruit’s aromatic oils. Transfer mixture to a 1-quart, heavy-bottomed saucepan along with the cornstarch and a tiny pinch of salt. Whisk in just enough of the tangelo juice to make a smooth slurry, then add remaining juice and whisk to smooth.
Place pan over medium heat and gently bring mixture to a boil. Cook, stirring frequently, until juice has thickened, just a few minutes. Cook for 1 minute more, then remove from heat and whisk in the butter, orange-blossom water and honey. This makes a generous 2 cups pudding.
Divide pudding among juice glasses or Champagne glasses and refrigerate until set, about 2 hours. Especially good when topped with a little whipped cream flavored with Grand Marnier or Cognac.
Makes 4 servings.
— Recipe adapted by the Los Angeles Times from Deborah Madison’s “Seasonal Fruit Desserts.”