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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