Pink is the New Orange

My fingers are sticky.

I've spent the past hour eating oranges. Two oranges, to be exact. And perhaps indulging would be more accurate.

The first one I devoured in a matter of seconds, just moments after coming home from the store. My bags of groceries still mostly unpacked on the floor, I tore into the bottom of one and pulled them out: oranges. Cara Cara navel oranges, to be exact. From Venezuela.

I'd heard rumors and wanted to see for myself, so, with a quick swipe of the knife I revealed what the sign at the store had promised: pink flesh. Pink! Glossy, tiny little sacs straining with sweet citrus.

I took my first bite.

Forget blood oranges and mandarins and Clementines and plain old orange-oranges. THIS is an orange. My teeth pressed into the rosy flesh, bursting through the skin. Sweet juice squirted into the air hitting me on my nose, running down my lips around my chin and along my neck. The whole fruit disappeared in seconds and I instantly wanted more.

I took my time with the second one. Cutting it in half, then slicing it into perfect pink rounds. The juice was all over by this point. I licked my thumb and was surprised by the taste. Grapefruit? I sniffed a slice. Orange. Then I licked the rind. Grapefruit! I bit. Orange again. Incredible! Even the thick pith coating the inside of the rind is sweet--chewy, juicy, and pleasant with hints of something earthy. Like a mushroom, almost. A sweet mushroom.

I have one orange left and I'm my mouth is already watering for more. I lick my lips and roll the heavy fruit around in my hand. I'll wait until tomorrow, I think, as I place it back in the bowl. I make a mental note to buy more.

Coconut Meatballs with Coconut Rum Dipping Sauce

As a little girl I had a weird hatred of meat in any form other than ground or buried in sauce. I was terrified of tasting or seeing anything even slightly pink or grisly or otherwise indicative that what I was chewing had once belonged to a living, breathing creature. So I had my mom bury my meat in thick sauces or grind it until it was barely recognizable.

One of my favorites during this (thankfully) brief period of questionable edible judgment, was meatballs. I'm not talking about the big, tender Italian-mama meatballs the size of a fist that simmer all (Sun)day in a giant vat of marinara sauce. No, these were Puerto Rican-mama meatballs--small (about an inch in diameter) and almost crispy on the outside, salty and sweet with mushy raisins and strong hints of peppers and onions. My mom would make them and serve them with rice or vegetables and then leave a plate of them on the counter top for my dad to munch on when he got in late from the 11pm broadcast. If I didn't eat them all before he got home, that is.

Those were my favorite. Cold from sitting out on the slightly grease-soaked paper towel covered plate. Covered with another plate and stolen one-by-one while leaning against the counter in the darkened kitchen. What more could you want?

I still whip up a batch of these for myself those nights at the end of the week when I'm exhausted and craving meat, but have had no time to do groceries. I always have a pound or two of ground beef in the freezer and this is precisely why. I'll usually eat half for dinner and then place the rest in a Ziploc to take to work for lunch the next day.

The savory sweet combo is key, but never really having been a fan of raisins, I decided to use coconut flour (ground unsweetened dessicated coconut) instead. I put it in the mix and then coated them before frying in olive oil in a hot skillet. When you're all done, use some rum and coconut milk to deglaze the pan making for a delicious little dipping (or "pouring all over") sauce.

I served these with roasted Brussels sprouts the other night, not because of any particularly good paring between the two, but just because I love Brussels sprouts. Serve yours with whatever you want--whether it's pasta or cornflakes. It's not about creating a killer menu. It's about what tastes good to you. And that's the whole point of these single girl dinners.

Coconut Meatballs with Coconut Rum Dipping Sauce
I used pork and beef to make these because it's what I had, but you can use any combination that you'd like--experiment! Lamb and veal are both two fabulous options to try.


For meatballs:
1 large onion, chopped fine
1 large green bell pepper, chopped fine
1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons olive oil
1 pound ground beef (not lean)
1 pound ground pork (not lean)
2/3 plus 1/3 cup coconut flour (unsweetened)
2 1/2 teaspoons salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
1/4 cup minced fresh parsley leaves
1/4 cup minced fresh oregano
1 large whole egg

For sauce:
1/4 cup dark rum
1 cup coconut milk
1 tablespoon brown sugar or equivalent
2 tablespoons butter
1 pinch red pepper flakes

To make:
Preheat your oven to 375 degrees.

1. Heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a heavy cast iron skillet (preferably well-seasoned) and add the chopped onion and bell peppers. Cook over moderately low heat, stirring occasionally, until softened. Remove from heat and let the mixture cool.

2. In a large glass bowl, combine the ground meat with the onion and peppers, 2/3 cup of the coconut, oregano, salt, nutmeg, and parsley.

3. Use your hands to form the mixture into 1 to 1.5 inch meatballs (you'll get about 65 or so).

4. Roll each meatball in the remaining coconut flour and set aside on a separate plate.

5. In the same skillet, heat 3 tablespoons of oil over moderately high heat until hot but not smoking and brown the meatballs in batches (about 10 - 12 at a time), adding the oil as necessary.

6. Transfer meatballs with a slotted spoon as browned to a baking dish and once all are in, place in the oven for 20 minutes until completely cooked through.

For the sauce

1. While the meatballs are in the oven, bring the skillet up to medium heat again and add the rum. Use a wooden spoon to stir and scrape all the bits of coconut and other good stuff in the sauce. Once the rum has reduced by about half, add the coconut milk, sugar, and red pepper, and continue stirring. Let this reduce again to half and add the butter to thicken the mix a bit. Let this cook down about a third, stirring continuously. You'll end up with an amazing, creamy golden colored sauce. Add salt to taste and remove from heat.

Serve the meatballs over a bed of lettuce as an appetizer with the sauce on the side, or serve as a main course with the sauce drizzled over and your favorite vegetable on the side. Or just eat them one by one straight from the pan while leaning against the counter and watching Grey's Anatomy reruns. That works too...

Pepper Mint Chocolate Chip Ice Cream

One of the things I love about hotels--good hotels--is that, if you ask nicely, you can usually get just about anything you want. It was with this in mind that I sat crosslegged on a hotel bed about a year and a half ago, room service menu in left hand and telephone receiver in the right. We wanted ice cream, but it wasn't on the menu.

"How could they not have ice cream?!" There was chocolate cake, cheesecake, creme brulee, and some kind of fruit cup situation, but no ice cream.

I refused to accept this and dialed room service.

"Good evening, Mrs. X," the man on the other line said, referring to me by the last name of the person who was registered in the room.

"Not Mrs. And also not X," I said with a bit of a laugh. Mr. X rolled his eyes at me from the floor where he sat packing his suitcase. "Great," he muttered. "Now the hotel staff thinks I'm having an affair..."

I shushed him so I could concentrate on my mission. On the other end, Room Service man seemed a bit flustered by my correction and was apologizing profusely. "No worries," I replied. "But you can make it up to me..."

Eager to please, he asked how he could help.

"I want ice cream, but it's not on your menu. Are you sure you don't have ice cream anywhere in this hotel?"

"Well..." he hesitated. "Let me see what I can find. I'll call you in a moment."

A few minutes later the phone rang. "Hello I found some ice cream in the restaurant. They are not really available for room service, but we are happy to make an exception. Would you like to hear the flavors?"

I agreed excitedly and told him to go ahead. He listed them slowly, giving me time to repeat them for Mr. X. "Vanilla, Coffee, Chocolate, Pink Peppercorn, and Strawberry." He gave me a moment to decide and I looked up at Mr. X excitedly.

"No," he said, even before I had the chance to voice my request. "We're not getting Pink Peppercorn."

"Please?" I begged, doing my best attempt at a pout.

"No. No weird flavors."

I ordered the coffee and vanilla, relenting only because I knew it was his last night in town. The dessert arrived quickly, elegant quenelles arranged with a sprinking of berries and fresh whipped cream. I remember enjoying the coffee, which was creamy and seemed to melt quickly on the plate, but in the back of my mind I still longed to try the pepper flavor. That night I vowed to do so as soon as possible.

As soon as possible turned out to be couple week ago when I found myself with a gallon of milk that absolutely had to be used, but not much in the way of flavorings. I considered an old-fashioned milk ice cream but then my eyes fell on a bottle of peppermint extract that had somehow disappeared among the spices. My brain instantly popped into action, remembering the bundle of soon-to-be-wilted mint leftover in the fridge after the previous weekend's mojitos. I pushed aside the extract and instead pulled down a bottle of whole black peppercorns.

"Pepper Mint!" I shouted to my empty kithcen as I quickly set to work, crushing and simmering and stirring and straining. I started with a custard base that quickly took on a lovely creamy beige hue. Once the mixture was cool and ready to freeze, I went to pull out the ice cream maker base when I noticed the long narrow box of Michel Cluizel single origin chocolate squares I'd recently received as a gift from the aforementioned Mr. X.

"Full circle!" I shouted once again, pulling out four or five of the little squares. I crushed these into rough chips and tossed them into the ice cream maker about five minutes before the end.

The result was breathtaking. The coolness of the fresh mint hits first, followed quickly by the creamy sweetness. It's not until a second or two later that the flavor truly blooms with a spicy tickly that seems to flow all the way down the throat.

I served this for friends who were actually quite surprised by it. One friend literally changed her opinion of the ice cream from one second to the next as it transformed in her mouth. It's absolutely an acquired taste; I think it's delicious, but one of my friends could not hide the look of horror on her face. "I like the first part," she said. An observation that I actually found quite fantastic as it gives evidence to the fact that this ice cream really does feel like 2 or 3 different kinds in one.

Pepper Mint Chocolate Chip Ice CreamThis pairs quite nicely with a light chocolate cake as you'll probably want something to tame the flavors. It's a strong ice cream and can stand up quite well to rich winter meals.

2 cups heavy cream
2 cups whole milk
3/4 cup granulated sugar
2.5 tablespoons whole black or pink peppercorns, crushed with a mortar or bottom of a heavy skillet
2 cups fresh mint, roughly ripped apart
8 egg yolks
1/2 cup semisweet chocolate chips or 1 chopped dark chocolate bar (the best you can find--don't even *think* about using Hershey's)

1. Heat the cream, milk, sugar, mint, and roughly crushed peppercorns over medium heat. Simmer gently, taking care not to let boil for about 20 minutes.

2.Meanwhile, beat the egg yolks in a medium bowl and set aside.

3. Temper the hot mixture into the eggs by slowly pouring about 1/2 cup of the cream at a time in a delicate stream while whisking constantly into the eggs. Once the egg mixture has been brought up in temperature, strain back into the saucepan and return to medium-low heat stirring constantly with a wooden spoon until the custard thickens.

4. Let the custard cool, and then chill in the fridge four about 2 hours until completely cold. (You can speed this up by placing the custard in a bowl over an ice bath and stirring constantly.)

5. Freeze the custard in an ice cream maker, according to the manufacturer’s directions. About five minutes before the end, toss in the chocolate and finish processing.

6. Place the finished ice cream in an air-tight container and freeze for at least a couple hours to harden.


My recent bursts of voracious citrus shopping have left me with far more blood oranges and Meyer lemons than I can possibly consume. In the past couple months I've worked my way through a bevy of citrus concoctions: marinades, salad dressings, flavored mayonnaise, court bouillons, and citrus ice creams.

All delicious, but as the season is really starting to wind down the time has come to preserve these lovely winter flavors. I've got orange and lemon juice cubes in the freezer and am fully intending on getting myself over to Zabar's this week to pick up a few canning jars for Moroccan preserved lemons and blood orange marmalade. Candied rinds are a given, but I really want to try and capture the flavors in as many different ways as possible. And what better way of capturing these pure, brilliant flavors than with infusions!?

I'm experimenting with three different kinds right now: blood orange vodka, Meyer lemon olive oil, and (just because) a blackberry-spice vodka with cloves, ginger, cinnamon, and cardamom.

These are my first attempts so I'm really looking forward to seeing how they turn out. I should start to get results in about a week--just in time for BFF Matt to help me sample when he arrives from Vegas for our two-day mini-visit. In the meantime, I'm quite taken with the little mad scientist lab I have building in my kitchen. Few things more exciting than multi-colored elixirs brewing in glass jars of varying shapes and sizes. Once I get my canning projects started it's going to look even more intriguing!

Hmmm... Now all I need now is a handsome male assistant to rinse my beakers and light my Bunsen burners... Any volunteers?

Thank God for the Corner Bodega

I turn into something of a hedonist the moment I enter a grocery store. I can even feel the change as I get closer and closer. The store I frequent most is the Whole Foods located in the basement of a fancy complex near my office. I always start out with a clear purpose, walking quickly while bracing against the wind, mentally telling myself that "I'm only picking up a couple things--some chicken breasts, a few vegetables, perhaps a bit of ham." I plan out sensible meals, well-budgeted meals that will keep me fed and happy for the duration of the week.

And then I step onto the escalator.

Something happens to me in those 40 seconds as I descend into the bustling store. All sense of reason and propriety seem to drift out of me, only to be replaced by some kind of epicurean insanity. Once in the store, I pull off my big fur hat and shove my gloves in my giant purse. These are deposited in the cart (never a basket) and off I go!

Darting through the aisles in no particular order. Sea scallops! Do I get 5 or 6? Enough for a meal...oh no...I need an entire pound. And I'll take a bag of mussels too... Thick slabs of cured bacon from the butcher. Fresh Italian sausage (spicy and sweet). A few veal shanks. Some tenderloin. And a bit of prosciutto while we're at it (imported; never domestic).

Blood oranges (get them while I can...) And Meyer lemons! As many as possible (they won't be around for long, after all...) Olive oil! I could just go with the perfectly decent Whole Foods brand, but why when there are so many other gorgeous (expensive) options. And why not grab a bottle of white truffle oil while I'm at it? And perhaps some walnut oil, too? The spices are next: a few vanilla beans, some saffron, smoked paprika, pink peppercorns, fleur de sel... You know! The basics...

I'm a sucker for preserved fish: smoked salmon fillets, peppered herring, cans of sardines, and a jar or two of imported tuna--ventresca cut, of course. Those buttery chunks straight from the belly of the tuna packed in rich olive oil. Mmmm... (Oh...never mind the mercury!).

On to the refrigerator case where I stock up on pates, freshly marinated artichokes, creamy logs of goat cheese, and--my favorite--half-sours. Oh yes...those glorious green quasi-cucumbers bobbing around in the briny water. God! They even *look* crisp!

On to the cheeses--a tiny wheel of brie, of course. Some English cheddar. A wedge of parmeggiano for grating. Maybe some pecorino or manchego (don't forget the quince paste and marcona almonds!).

And somehow I'm back in produce--I grab some red pepper, Brussels sprouts, and cauliflower. Then the herbs: cilantro, some parsley, a few sprigs of rosemary, some fresh bay leaves, and my current favorite herb: lemon-thyme. Try it! It's citrus-scented thyme (and it's completely natural). Really---I think it's quite possibly the only reason why chicken even exists: mash into butter and stuff it under the skin of a well-washed roaster. Some kosher salt. A few generous cracks of pepper. You'll thank me...

By now I'm guessing you see the trend? I subsist off one gigantic antipasto platter! I lug these spoils home in those ugly but wonderfully convenient recycled bags with the long handle that fits perfectly over my arm. My shoulders usually feel like they're going to fall off by the time I get off my train, but nothing--NOTHING--beats that fantastic feeling after I put all the food away and realize that I have everything I need to make several incredible meals.

Um...everything but eggs. And milk. Butter. Trash bags... Damn! Where did I put the keys again?
Back to Top