Side Dishes

Blood Orange Salad

Blood Orange Salad with Mint and Black Olives   

Makes 5 servings

I love the way Sicilians treat oranges as a savory food, preparing them with sea salt, black pepper, onion, and herbs. That’s one of the many culinary legacies of Sicily’s long Arab rule.

Sicily grows many varieties of oranges, but it’s proudest of its blood oranges. Moro, Tarocco, and Sanguinello are three great varieties. They differ in sweetness and in color, some with deep burgundy flesh throughout and others mostly orange with streaks of deep red. A version of this salad is often presented at the end of the Christmas Eve meal as a palate cleanser before the desserts are brought out.

Blood oranges weren’t easy to find when I was a kid, so I never tasted this salad until my first trip to Palermo, in the 1980s. Now I find imported Sicilian blood oranges (and Californian ones, too) in the winter.

  • 8 to 10 blood oranges or a mix of blood and regular oranges, peeled, all the white removed, and sliced into thin rounds
  • A few very thin slices red onion
  • 1 handful black olives, unpitted
  • Sea salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
  • ¼ cup extra virgin olive oil (preferably a Sicilian brand)
  • 1 handful fresh mint leaves

Arrange oranges in a circle on a large, festive serving platter. Scatter on onion and olives. Season with sea salt, freshly ground black pepper, and a generous drizzle of your best olive oil. Garnish with mint. (The oranges can be arranged on the platter ahead and refrigerated for a few hours, but all the other ingredients should be added at the last minute.)

Recipe by Erica De Mane; photo by Terry Brennan; food styling by Lara Miklasevics
 
Potatos with toppings

Boiled New Potatoes with Toppings    

Makes 4 servings

Tiny young potatoes are at their best simply boiled in salt water and shaken to dry. Boiling is also the best way to showcase the whole gamut of different potato types. They are luscious as is, though I adore them with butter and chopped, fresh dill, or with yogurt and chopped green onion.

  • 1½ pounds small new potatoes
  • Large pinch salt

1. Wash potatoes, place in a saucepan, and fill pan with cold water. Add a large pinch salt.

2. Bring to a boil, reduce to a simmer, and cook over a low boil or bubble until just tender. Depending on their size, potatoes will be ready in about 10 minutes. Test every so often with a skewer or tip of a small knife to avoid cooking until mush.

3. When potatoes are cooked through, drain (a small amount of water will remain in pan). Return to stove to help them dry. Over medium low heat, shake pan occasionally until any cooking liquid has evaporated. (The bottom of the pan in between the potatoes should appear dry.) Remove from heat, then cover to keep potatoes moist and warm until ready to use.

Eat simply, in their skins, with any of the following toppings:

  • Butter, chopped, fresh dill, and chives
  • Yogurt, Greek yogurt, or sour cream and thinly sliced green onions
  • Sour cream, caviar or shredded, smoked salmon, and chopped chives
  • Raita (Indian yogurt mixed with a little mint or cumin) with a few dabs spicy pickle on the side
  • Pesto
  • Extra virgin olive oil, chopped parsley, garlic, salt, and pepper
  • With melted cheese, raclette-style: Bake cheese until melty then serve on a plate that keeps it hot along with a plate of cornichons and thinly sliced onions.
  • Baked Camembert: Open a package of Camembert, cut a tiny bit out of the top, pour a little white wine in it, and replace lid. Bake in a hot oven, in its box resting on a baking sheet, about 10 minutes, until cheese is melty and ready to ooze.
  • Fromage blanc, or cottage cheese puréed and mixed with a little crème fraîche or sour cream, then mixed with a bit of soft butter, dry white wine, chopped onion, chopped garlic, parsley, tarragon, dill, chives, and salt and pepper to taste. This is delicious when the cheese mixture is cold, the potatoes hot.
Recipe by Marlena Spieler; photography by Terry Brennan; food styling by Lara Miklasevics
 
Apple Pine Nut Bread

Apple, Pine Nut, and Cardamom Quick Bread    

Makes 10 slices per 11-inch loaf

This is a wonderful bread that freezes very well and can be kept wrapped in the fridge for at least 10 days. It is quick to make and has a haunting flavor that comes from the apples resting in the lemon juice for a few minutes. I have made this with and without the cardamom; either way it is fantastic and seems to get even better a day or two later.

  • 4 Golden Delicious apples
  • 1 zested lemon
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 1 cup sugar, divided
  • 5 large eggs
  • 10 tablespoons melted butter
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 2 ½ cups flour, Heckers or King Arthur
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 1 ½ teaspoons ground cardamom
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ¹⁄³ cup pine nuts

1. Position a rack in middle of oven and preheat to 350°F. Grease and flour an 11×4-inch loaf pan.

2. Peel apples, cut into thin ½-inch pieces, and place in bowl. Add zest, juice, and 2 tablespoons sugar. Mix together and set aside.

3. In a standing electric mixer, beat eggs and remaining sugar 2 minutes.

4. Gently stir in butter and vanilla. Slowly stir in flour, baking powder, cardamom, and salt.

5. Remove bowl from mixer, pour batter over apples, and fold in.

6. Pour mixture into pan and sprinkle pine nuts on top.

7. Bake 45 minutes, until a skewer inserted in center comes out clean. Will keep for a week wrapped well in the refrigerator. Will not freeze well as the apples become wet and mushy.

Recipe by Serena Bass; photo by Terry Brennan; food styling by Lara Miklasevics
 

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