Sunday, January 3, 2010

A Fresh Sweet Start

Each new year brings another opportunity for a fresh start. A time to bid adieu to the past and start with a clean slate. This year we have a new decade before us as well. When I reflect on the past 10 years, I am amazed at the profound changes that have taken place in my life and in the lives of those close to me. There have been many "up" times, as my family hit milestones and worked hard for personal success, and everyday joys. There were some very dark "down" times, such as the passing of friends and family members. And who could have predicted that at the beginning of the last decade the worst terrorist attack in our history would've began at my city and my airline? So many changes came at once, and yes, I adapted. We all adapt and begin fresh chapters every year and some years are bigger than others. When I started this blog a little over a year ago with my friend Pam, the other "stew", we didn't know where it would lead. She has since begun her own blog, The Gypsy Chef, as we both develop our individual styles and ways of expressing them. While we wade through the chiaroscuro of life, it seems the fresh starts are the lightest. My new year began with snow that just hasn't stopped for days now.The snow seems to be saying, on this new year, this new decade, that it is giving a clean white covering to begin anew. So I took the que and hunkered down and made crisp, sweet white meringues, that resemble snow drops. Recalling a recipe from a cookbook that my neighbor, Kate introduced me to, I made a winter citrus treat with meringues and crème fraîche. The cookbook entitled, "Stir", is written by Barbara Lynch, a brilliant Boston chef. I changed a few of the ingredients to suit my taste (noted at the end of the recipe) and was pleased by it's sweet freshness, combination of flavors and visual allure. I was so inspired by the white purity of the crisp meringues that I have included them in my new look on this blog. I am beginning this new year with a clean and pure look, just like the blanket of snow around me. I also want to thank each and everyone of you who have commented, made suggestions or just sat with a cup of coffee or glass of wine and read my blog. I wish you a fresh and sweet start to this new year and decade.

Winter Citrus with Cumin Meringue and Whipped Crème Fraîche
(Adapted from "Stir", by Barbara Lynch)

For the citrus:
1/2 cup sugar
2 whole star anise or 2 teaspoons pieces
1 cinnamon stick
2 teaspoons whole cardamom pods (green or white)
6 assorted citrus fruit*, peeled, and segmented** (squeeze juice left in pulp and reserve that, too, for about 1 1/2 cups juice)
*Suggested citrus fruits are, Cara Cara orange, satsuma, a tangerine, a Meyer lemon, a ruby red grapefruit, and a blood orange.
**For video showing how to segment an orange, click here.

For the meringues:
3 large egg whites
1/8 teaspoon cream of tartar
1/8 teaspoon ground cumin* (see note at bottom of recipe)
1/8 teaspoon kosher salt
1 cup sugar

For serving:
3/4 cup
crème fraîche

To make the citrus:
In a medium saucepan, combine the sugar, 1/2 cup water, star anise, cinnamon stick, and cardamom pods. Bring to a simmer and cook until the sugar has dissolved and the spices have infused their flavor, about 10 minutes. Add the reserved citrus juice and return to a simmer over medium low heat until mixture has reduced by about half and is syrupy, about 1/2 hour. Strain and reserve the liquid. (Discard the spices.) If not using right away, refrigerate the fruit and liquid, covered.

To make the meringues:
Heat oven to 200 degrees F and line a baking sheet with Silpat or with parchment paper. In a bowl, with an electric mixer, beat the egg whites on medium speed until frothy.
Add the cream of tartar, cumin,and salt. Gradually add the sugar and continue to beat until stiff peaks form.Using a large spoon, put dollops of the egg whites, about the size of a lime, on a baking sheet, leaving about 1 1/2 inches of room around each; you will make about 20 meringues.Bake the meringues until completely dry and crisp, about 4 hours. Ideally the crisps should not color or should color only slightly. (To test for doneness, take one out, let it cool briefly and bite into it.) Cool the meringues completely on a rack before storing in an airtight container. (If they seem even slightly warm when stored, they can get soft and sticky.)

To serve, beat the
crème fraîche to medium peaks. Put a dollop on each of four rimmed plates or shallow bowls. Divide the citrus among the plates, being sure to include a few slices of each kind. Spoon the reduced citrus liquid over and around the fruit.
Garnish with a couple of meringues (you will have extra).
You may make the meringues up to 3 days ahead. The fruit and reduced sauce can be refrigerated covered, 2 days before serving.

Serves 4.
2 Stews notes:
*For the meringues, I substituted the cumin for a combination of ground cardamom, ground cinnamon and cayenne pepper, that equaled 1/8 teaspoon when combined. I also omitted the star anise with the citrus, but that is my own personal taste. I made the meringues about half of the recommended size and preferred that size more.
I added a few blackberries and pomegranate seeds for color and flavor.

Winter Citrus with Cumin Meringue and Whipped Crème Fraîche recipe, click here.

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La Table De Nana said...

I've been watching your weather..ours is the same..we babysat last night and drove home late some less than great visibility in certain's beautiful though!But nothing compares to your ocean~

Our lake doesn't roll in..
And our roof already needed used to be the it's the roof a few times a year it seems!

I have seen Mass..and Fl and ME storms..but I have never seen your state and Maine in winter..and I think I would love it..

Or even late late fall when no one is around..

Your photos are beautiful..
Your post is a lovely beginning to the new year..the book looks well your dessert and meringues..:)
I like where you live~
I hope this year is wonderful to you and yours~

Ju (The Little Teochew) said...

A fresh, sweet, BEAUTIFUL start. I love the new look. It's so you, Diane. And the photos. Wow, gorgeous. I feel your words in this post. Wishing you well, always.


food with style said...

what a gorgeous post from a fresh start to sparkling seas and a quiet refection on the decade... i feel like a shmuck, i did nothing pretty or reflective for the year, i just plod on like a clydesdale!

i adore meringue... a little too much!

food with style said...

opps i forgot to ask you to come play food for thought, check out my blog and see what i am talking about, kick off the 16th, start reading!

Kate at Serendipity said...

I've been waiting for the blood oranges to come in here, and now I know why. Pity we don't get Meyer lemons. I love the addition of pomegranate and blackberry to this. And I'd have changed the cumin for cardamom as well.

Gorgeous photos! And I love the new look. Clean. Zen.

Lori (All That Splatters) said...

I love your post. Such a positive outlook on something that many are complaining about ("too much snow!") There is something very lovely and serene to a vista of pristine whiteness all around. Beautiful, Diane.

I can't wait to try meringues with the added touch of cardamom and other seasonings. Just enough, I would imagine, to add a hint of flavor?

I really like the new look of your blog. Very clean and fresh-looking. Btw, your photos are just gorgeous, as always!

Dragana said...

Love your 'new look' and a pretty, refreshing dessert!

Linda said...

Lovely looks clean and light and very refreshing...
I love the complaints from me...
Love your new header!
Happy New Year!

Karine said...

This looks fantastic!

The start of the year is always such a great occasion to think about what we have :)

Mari @ Once Upon a Plate said...

Beautiful, beautiful!! It's so YOU, Diane.

Love the new steamlined look of your blog, fresh and inviting... just like this gorgeous recipe. What a wonderful way to kick off the new year.

I love your blog and always learn something new each time I visit. I'm a huge fan of yours! xo

Zurin said...

What a lovely light and fresh start indeed Diane! beautiful.

Elizabeth Spann Craig said...

Nice pictures and a delicious sounding recipe. Great start to the year!

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Sook said...

You have such a lovely blog. I'm glad I've stumbled upon it. This looks really good, too.

2 Stews said...

Thanks all! would love Maine and Massachusetts in the fall and winter. Right around February though, enough is enough with the cold and snow!! It is then that I am swearing to move south (well, maybe sometimes before then!)