Friday, December 4, 2009

It's clementine time

I love the smell of citrus fruit. That pungent, sweet smell of oranges, that fresh scent of lemons, mandarins and of course clementines - which are a cross between a mandarin and a navel orange - always tickle my nostrils and stir up memories.

Mostly it reminds me of home. Walking down the street or simply going to my back yard and just picking fruit from the trees which are always full, especially this time of year. Bitter and navel orange, mandarin and lemon trees grow everywhere in Greece. It's such a beautiful sight and such an inspiration for cooking as well.

I always get so excited when I see the first clementines of the season making their appearance at the stalls of my local greengrocer. So many recipes go running through my head. From a simple clementine juice packed with precious vitamin C to an elaborate clementine sweet souffle, there's so much to choose from.

So, with no further ado, let's get cooking! I have two recipes for you today. One savory and one sweet.
Take your pick!

Chicken Breasts with Clementine Salsa
Adapted from Bon Appétit

The juicy clementines and sweet cherry tomatoes balance perfectly with the heat of the chili and the freshness of the cilantro and basil. The chicken breasts are moist and tender making this colorful dish very special and very healthy indeed. It would be a great dish for a dinner with friends paired with a chilled white wine.

Yield: 4 servings

4 chicken breast halves, no skin (about 150 g each)
4 clementines, peeled and diced (about 1 cup)
1 cup cherry tomatoes, quartered
1/2 cup red onion, finely diced
1/2 cup celery, finely diced
1/4 cup fresh basil leaves, roughly chopped
1/4 cup fresh coriander leaves (cilantro), roughly chopped
4 Tbsp olive oil
2 Tbsp lime juice, freshly squeezed
1/4 tsp chili powder
1/2 cup clementine juice, freshly squeezed (from about 6 clementines)
Freshly ground black pepper

Place the chicken breast halves between two sheets of plastic wrap and using a mallet, pound chicken to a 1 cm thickness. This is not only a way of reducing cooking time, since the meat is thinner but it is also a way of tenderizing it.
To make the salsa, mix the diced clementines with the cherry tomatoes, red onion, celery, basil, coriander, lime juice and 2 Tbsp of the olive oil in a medium bowl . Add salt and pepper and toss.
The salsa can be made 2 hours ahead and can be kept covered, at room temperature. Uncover chicken and sprinkle both sides with salt and chili powder. Heat the remaining 2 Tbsp of olive oil in a large non-stick skillet over medium-high heat and add the chicken. Cook until it is slightly browned and cooked through, about 4-5 minutes per side. When the chicken is ready, remove from skillet and place onto a platter.
Add clementine juice to the skillet and boil until it's reduced to 1/4 cup. Be sure to stir often, about 2 minutes.
Drizzle the sauce over the chicken and spoon the salsa over. Serve immediately.

Clementines in Spiced Ginger Syrup
Adapted from Gourmet

This is a highly aromatic and spicy yet very light dessert. The honeyed orange flavor of the clementines marries well with the peppery heat of the ginger and the spirit of the spices. Its Algerian origin makes it an exotic pick for a dinner party dessert.

Yield: 4-6 servings

1 1/2 cups water
1 cup sugar
1/4 cup fresh ginger, peeled and thinly sliced
4 green cardamom pods
2 whole star anise
1/2 cinnamon stick
6 clementines (alternatively you can use mandarins)

In a small saucepan place the water, sugar, ginger, cardamom pods, cinnamon and star anise. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat, stirring until the sugar has dissolved, then simmer, uncovered, for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Remove from heat and leave to infuse, covered, for about 15 minutes. Strain syrup through a sieve into a bowl and discard the solids. Cover the bowl and chill the syrup until cold, for at least 2 hours.
Peel clementines, making sure to remove the white pith as well. You may want to use a knife to do that. Then cut fruit into 1.5 cm thick rounds and put in a serving bowl.
Add syrup and chill, covered, for at least 1 hour.
You can keep them in the refrigerator for up to 3 days at most.

1 comment:

  1. Love the clementines in syrup - minus the star anise...and I love clementines, mandarins....I love almost ALL citruses