December 2, 2008

'Tis the Season for Citrus Fruits and Radiators!

While I am horrible at remembering book titles, album titles, and people's names, I am pretty damn good at remembering images. When it comes to image-collection, I am the queen of hamsters, stuffing those pretty pictures into my brainy pouch so that I can meal on them later. I once stored an image from an M.F.K. Fisher book that ranks right up there with the best of seeds in my rodent world. What's the title, you might be asking? That's for you to hunt down, Wiki-Sherlock. If this essay ain't getting graded, the responsibility for accuracy is out of my hands. Please tolerate my breed of hyper-unreliability.

Anyway, back to the hamster. Back to the citrusy seed. The image I recall so fondly is a slice of tangerine that Fisher accidentally roasted atop her apartment radiator in Paris. What I love about this image is the sheer accidental nature of its creation. Finished with her tangerine, she placed the remaining pieces on an old piece of newspaper and tossed the now-weighted paper aside...onto her metal radiator. This was the kind of heater you might imagine in any studio apartment in Chicago. Or a bourgie Parisian apartment circa 1930. Or 1931, Mrs. Picky Calculator Lady! Early-30s Paris might very well be the setting for this miracle. Or not.

At any rate, the radiator, the 1930s, the newspaper, the tangerine scraps, the woman, the naked man this woman can see in the apartment building across the street--none of these things are important. Nothing is important in this image I'm mealin' on betwixt my hamster teeth except for the final citrusy transformation.

While Fisher rested studiously in her armchair, perhaps considering a new way to prepare a fig compote at the tennis club brunch, her tangerine became something entirely new. From summery orange slice, to a crispy-shelled nugget of winter sun, Fisher's tangerine had changed. (If I could remember the book title or the essay title--or, if I could somehow summon forth Fisher's ghost--I would be thrilled to offer you her gorgeous description of this accidentally-roasted tangerine. However, these primary sources are the properties of other hamsters. Hamsters with winning memories and connections to high-ranking government officials.)

Back to the miracle that took place at Fisher's side: she remarked on how the soft membrane of this small slice turned to crunch, how the inside of the tangerine remained juicy, became almost creamy when warmed. How this union of glass and cream must have rattled her spine! How, after taking the first bite, she must have wanted to dive through her own glass window and into the creamy arms of the man still see standing naked across the street. (Or, am I once again imposing my own psychology upon this scene?)

I tried roasting my own tangerines a few years ago--without the newspaper, without the radiator, without the naked muse standing before me. I roasted my slices in a more conventional way: I used the oven. While my roasted sun slices were kinda good, they were nothing to lose yourself over. Perhaps they were made too deliberately, with expectations far exceeding anything in this real world (vs. my hamster world). Or, perhaps one needs to be in a bourgie apartment in Paris to understand such delights. I was dissatisfied with my copied tangerines, but still hopeful of their possibility. I probably won't try roasting my own tangerines again, but at least I still have the original and perfect image-seed to continue nibbling on until an accidental miracle takes place on my very own radiator.

By the way, for those of you with real radiators (vs. the metaphorical radiator I just crappily tried to create above), check this out. Radiator cooking sure has come a long way since Paris in the 30s!

Here are two near-miraculous recipes for appetizers that contain citrus. Since we are currently in the thick of citrus season, you might give one of these a shot at your next holiday gathering!

Citrus Roasted Olives
Based on a Rachel Ray recipe. You might have seen her prepare these olives during her 1-hour Thanksgiving Special.

3-4 cups of olives (I used a mix of Kalamata and Greek)
drizzle of olive oil
a few pinches of red pepper flakes
a strip of orange zest (from half an orange)
a strip of lemon zest (from half a lemon)
black pepper
a drizzle of the orange and lemon juice

1. Place olives on a large strip of aluminum foil. Throw in the remaining ingredients and mix everything around with your hands.
2. Fold the foil so that your olives are contained in an air-tight pouch. Toss your pouch into the oven (250-300) for 25-30 minutes.
3. Serve in a bowl while still warm.

Orange-Walnut Brie

1/4 cup of brown sugar
zest from half an orange
a few tablespoons of orange juice
1 Tbs. butter (cut into small squares)
a pinch of cinnamon
1/4 cup of walnuts
1 wheel of brie cheese

1. In a bowl, mix the brown sugar, orange juice, zest, butter, and cinnamon. When mixtures looks mixed and slightly clumpy, add the walnuts. Stir to combine.
2. Place your wheel of cheese onto a large piece of foil. Top it with the nutty mixture. Fold foil so that your cheese is contained in an air-tight pouch, and place your pouch in the oven (250-300) for 25-30 minutes. (Same as can warm both together!)
3. Serve warm with bread.


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