Randy’s Recipes: Central Coast Citrus

With the change from winter to spring comes a bounty of fresh oranges, tangerines, and lemons. In Ventura County, you can buy fresh citrus fruits at farmers’ markets in Ojai, Thousand Oaks, Simi Valley, Camarillo, and Westlake Village. I like to buy my citrus from vendors at the Ojai Certified Farmers’ Market and at Friend’s Ranch on Highway 33, northwest of Ojai. In Santa Barbara County, farmers’ markets are held in Santa Barbara, Goleta, Solvang, Carpinteria, and Montecito. In San Luis Obispo County, look for fresh citrus at farmers’ markets in Paso Robles, San Luis Obispo, Arroyo Grande, Los Olivos, Atascadero, Avila Beach, Cambria, and Templeton.

My Portobello-Orange Salad features fresh Valencia orange sections and grated orange zest. My Tomatillo Salsa Verde recipe is easy to make, refrigerates well, and features fresh lime juice. The Farro, Feta, and Meyer Lemon Salad is my unique combination of chewy farro whole-wheat grain, Meyer lemon juice, feta cheese, and Castelvetrano olives.

My Pixie Tangerine Cupcakes recipe features a delicious carrot cupcake topped with cream cheese and buttercream frosting made with Pixie tangerine zest and juice. And if you wonder what to sip while you cook, I’ve also included my favorite springtime cocktail, Pisco Sour, made with Peruvian brandy and fresh lime juice and garnished with a slice of lime.


Portobello-Orange Salad

This recipe is a refreshingly different vegan salad. Why, you ask, is it different? Combining juicy-sweet Valencia oranges and earthy portobello mushrooms makes it different and oh-so-tasty.

Makes 2 to 3 servings.


4 large portobello mushrooms (stems and gills removed)

4 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil (divided)

Salt and pepper to taste

2 large Valencia oranges

½ teaspoon grated orange zest

2 teaspoons capers (mashed)

2 teaspoons shallot (chopped fine)

Mixed greens (optional)

Directions: Place four salad plates in the refrigerator to chill.

Brush mushrooms with two teaspoons of olive oil, then season with salt and pepper to taste. Heat a grill or sauté pan over medium-high heat. Brush or rub pan lightly with oil and sauté mushrooms — three minutes per side. Set aside to cool.

While the mushrooms are cooling, trim the ends of one orange and place one end on a cutting board cut side down. Angle a knife to cut between the pith and the pulp to remove the peel. Cut along the inside of the membrane walls to remove sections. Repeat with the remaining orange. Roughly chop both and place in a medium bowl. Add orange zest, capers, the balance of the olive oil, and shallots to the oranges. Set aside.

Slice mushrooms on a bias and cut the slices into 1-inch pieces. Add mushrooms to the orange mixture and gently stir to coat the mushrooms. Take chilled plates out of the refrigerator and place a handful of mixed greens on each plate. Spoon one-fourth of the mushroom mixture on top of each plate of greens. Serve while plates are still cold.

Vegan Tomatillo Salsa

Tomatillos are a hard, small fruit that is a bit tart, yet slightly sweet; earthy, but with a hint of citrus. In other words, they are like nothing else. You may have seen them in the store with green husks and thought they were weird green tomatoes. They are used to make mole, spicy soup, and several other Mexican dishes. I like to use them to make this vegan salsa. Use on enchiladas or as a condiment for any dish that needs a little extra zip!

Makes about 4 cups of salsa.


16 ounces fresh tomatillos (husked and washed)

1 large yellow onion (cut into large chunks)

3 cloves garlic (peeled)

½ packed cup of cilantro leaves (chopped)

½ jalapeño (de-seed and de-vein if you don’t like the heat)

1 tablespoon fresh lime juice

Salt (to taste)

Directions: Cut the tomatillos into quarters and put them into the bowl of a food processor. Add the onion and garlic and process until smooth. Add the cilantro, jalapeño, and lime juice and process until the jalapeño is finely chopped.

Scrape the mixture into a saucepan. Season lightly with salt and bring to a boil over medium heat. Cook, stirring occasionally, until most of the liquid is boiled off and the salsa looks like a fine relish — about 15 minutes. Cool before using.

Note: This sauce can be refrigerated for up to one week. If chilled, you may want to add a little salt and lime juice before serving.


Farro, Feta, and Meyer Lemon Salad

Farro is a nutty-tasting ancient grain eaten for thousands of years worldwide. It is a staple in many Mediterranean, Ethiopian, and Middle Eastern recipes. It was once called pharaoh’s wheat because it was popular in Egypt before reaching Italy.

Farro is an excellent source of protein, fiber, and nutrients like magnesium and iron. It’s a big nutritional step up from using white rice or other refined grains in your cooking. But beware: If you are sensitive to gluten, this may not be the dish for you. Farro contains gluten protein and is most definitely not gluten-free.

Makes 2 to 3 servings.


1 cup farro wheat grain

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

3 tablespoons Meyer lemon juice

2 tablespoons finely chopped Meyer lemon zest

(from about 4 lemons)

½ teaspoon fresh ground black pepper

¼ teaspoon Aleppo pepper

½ cup fresh parsley leaves (chopped)

½ cup feta cheese (crumbled)

2/3 cup Castelvetrano olives (pitted)

Salt to taste

(if desired) Butter lettuce

Directions: Bring four cups of salted water to a boil and stir in farro. Reduce heat to a simmer and cook until just tender, about 20 minutes. Drain and spread out on a baking sheet lined with paper towels. Allow to cool and dry a bit, about five minutes.

While farro is cooling, whisk oil, lemon juice and zest, black pepper, Aleppo pepper, and parsley in a medium bowl. Stir in feta, olives, and cooled farro. Serve on a bed of butter lettuce.


Pixie Tangerine Cupcakes

These delicious cupcakes are easy to make and have a fresh carrot cake taste. The freshness of Ojai Pixie tangerines from Friend’s Ranch gives the frosting an orange creamsicle flavor. What could be better?

Makes 12 cupcakes.

Cupcake ingredients:

1¼ cups granulated sugar

¾ cup canola oil

1/3 cup buttermilk

2 large eggs

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

2 cups flour

1½ teaspoons baking powder

1 teaspoon ground allspice

½ teaspoon baking soda

½ teaspoon salt

1 cup grated carrots (about 2 medium carrots)

½ cup golden raisins

Frosting ingredients:

½ cup butter (room temp)

4 ounces cream cheese (room temp)

1 tablespoon Pixie tangerine zest

16 ounces powdered sugar

2 tablespoons milk

2 tablespoons fresh Pixie tangerine juice

Cupcake directions: Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line a 12-cup muffin pan with paper liners.

Combine the sugar, oil, buttermilk, eggs, and vanilla extract in a bowl. Combine the flour, baking powder, allspice, baking soda, and salt in a separate bowl. Add the flour mixture to the oil mixture and stir until smooth. Fold in the carrots and raisins.

Spoon the batter into the muffin cups and bake for 20 minutes or until golden and the cupcakes are slightly springy to the touch. After removing them from the oven, cool the cupcakes in the pan for five minutes, then transfer them to a rack to cool completely before frosting.

Frosting directions: While the cupcakes are cooling, beat the butter, cream cheese, and zest with an electric mixer until creamy. Gradually add powdered sugar, milk, and tangerine juice, beating slowly until blended. Cover and place in refrigerator for about 30 minutes to get it firm enough to spread.

Now for the fun part. Frost the cupcakes and chow down. Be sure to share with friends and family. There should be plenty to go around!


Pisco Sour

Pisco is a type of South American brandy, and the pisco from Peru has a complex, earthy flavor. The Pisco Sour is the most popular way of drinking pisco, and for decades, it has been the signature mixed drink of Peru. This is the recipe for a Pisco Sour cocktail I enjoyed at a restaurant in the Miraflores neighborhood in Lima, Peru.

Makes 1 cocktail.

Ingredients: 3 ounces Peruvian pisco (Campo de Encanto is a good brand)

1 ounce of fresh lime juice

½ ounce simple syrup

1 egg white

Cracked ice

1 to 2 dashes Peruvian Amargo Chuncho Bitters

Directions: Combine pisco, lime, simple syrup, and egg white in a cocktail shaker without ice and seal. Shake vigorously until egg white is foamy, about 10 seconds. Add ice to the shaker and shake hard until well-chilled, about 10 seconds. Strain into a chilled cocktail glass and put a dash of bitters atop the egg-white foam.

Note: If you can’t find Peruvian bitters, substitute Angostura Bitters.