Randy’s Recipes Winter 2021

Winter Season Citrus
By Randy Graham,
the Valley Vegetarian

What do tangerines, oranges, and lemons have in common? All are local citrus fruits available during the winter months. And although many of the tangerines and oranges may look similar on the inside, each has a distinctly different scent and flavor.

The following recipes feature some of the excellent local citruses available on California’s Central Coast. My Orange Couscous recipe, for example, is made with fresh-juiced navel oranges, which are available from January through April.

My Orange Fennel Salad features blood oranges. Blood oranges, you say? Yep! They are like subtly sweet oranges that have been infused with tangy red grapefruit and hints of tart cherries and raspberries. Besides, they look amazing when plated. When paired with razor-thin slices of fennel, they make you smile.

My Lemon Zest Pasta is made with farfalle (bowtie) pasta and is as fun as it is tasty. Although various lemon varieties are available year-round, try using the zest from Meyer lemons, which are available on the central coast from December through February.

For the Citrus and Winter Greens recipe, I juice Valencia oranges, which are available in the early winter months. The sweetness of the Valencia oranges balances out the bitterness of the kale.

In my Marinated Manchego Tapas recipe, I use the juice from satsuma tangerines because they are some of the first tangerines available, and they have a very distinctive flavor that pairs well with the sheep’s milk manchego cheese.


Portobello Wellington Appetizers

The pairing of portobello mushroom earthiness with fresh winter chard, fresh lemon juice, and the creamy goodness of Stilton cheese will delight both family and friends. I like to serve these with sparkling wine. Here’s a bonus — these puff pastry appetizers can be made ahead of time and kept refrigerated until ready to bake.

Ingredients: 4 medium portobello mushrooms

4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil (divided)

1 bunch fresh red chard (ribs trimmed, leaves cut into ribbons)

1 clove garlic (minced)

1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice

Salt and pepper to taste

1 package puff pastry sheets

4 ounces Stilton cheese (eight slices)

1 large egg (beaten)

1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves

Directions: Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Remove the stalks from the mushrooms and brush off the tops. Heat two tablespoons of the oil in a large frying pan on medium heat and cook for three to four minutes on each side until golden. Remove the mushrooms from the pan and set the pan and the mushrooms aside.

Clean chard leaves under cold running water. Hold the stem of one leaf in your hand, and grasping the leafy part with your other hand, tear the rib away from the stem. Discard stems and cut leaves into 1/4-inch ribbons.

Place the pan back on the stove and add the other two tablespoons of oil. Add the garlic and cook on medium-high heat for one minute. Add the chard to the pan, and then cook for two minutes. Remove from heat, add lemon, and season with salt and pepper to taste. Set aside.

Roll the pastry out to 1/8 inch thickness. Cut out eight circles about 4-inches in diameter (depending upon the size of the mushrooms). Place four pastry circles on a baking tray lined with parchment paper.

Top each circle with a quarter of the chard. Top the chard with a slice of cheese, then a mushroom, smooth side up, and top the mushroom with another slice of cheese. Brush the border of each pastry circle with egg, then gently stretch one of the four remaining circles over the cheese and press the edges together with a fork. Repeat three more times.

Brush the tops with egg wash and sprinkle thyme leaves on top. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes or until golden. Remove from oven and cool on a rack for five minutes before serving.

Orange Couscous

This vegan dish is colorful, full of flavor, and enjoyed by both my vegetarian and meat lover friends. The fresh orange juice compliments the dried apricots and cranberries. If you juice your own oranges, it is even better.

I serve this as a side dish with my seven-layer crepe entrée, although it is so good it’s enough to be an entire meal by itself. It is also a good substitute for traditional Christmas stuffing. No matter how or when you serve it, I think you’ll like it a lot.

Ingredients: 2 1/2 cups fresh orange juice

10 ounces couscous

1/4 cup vegetable oil

1 1/2 cups onion (finely chopped)

1/2 cup celery (finely chopped)

1/2 cup red bell pepper (finely chopped)

1/2 cup green bell pepper (finely chopped)

1/2 cup carrots (finely chopped)

1/2 cup dried apricots (chopped)

1/2 cup dried cranberries

1/4 teaspoon cinnamon

1 teaspoon ground cumin

2 teaspoons ground coriander seed

1/2 teaspoon dried marjoram

1/2 cup green onions (green tops chopped)

Salt and fresh ground pepper

Directions: Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Prepare a 9×13-inch baking dish with cooking spray.

Heat orange juice in a medium saucepan to boiling. Stir in couscous, remove from heat, and cover. Set aside for five minutes or until orange juice is fully absorbed. Fluff with a fork. Set aside uncovered.

Heat oil on medium heat in a large skillet. Add the next five ingredients (onions through carrots). Sauté for six to eight minutes, stirring occasionally. Remove from heat. Stir in dried fruits, spices, and green onions. Combine this vegetable mixture with the couscous.

Spoon couscous into the prepared baking dish and cover with foil. Bake for 30 minutes. Uncover and bake for another 15 minutes. This dish cools quickly, so serve while still hot for the best flavor.

 Orange-Fennel Salad with Avocado

This vegan salad features blood oranges, fennel, and Fuerte avocados. It is a fantastic combination of fresh fruit and vegetables. Also, the dressing is made with a flavorful blood orange olive oil and a pear-flavored white balsamic vinegar. Add a touch of agave nectar for sweetness, and you have a salad your friends and family will remember for many a moon.

Ingredients: 3 fennel bulbs (sliced  1/8 -inch thick)

3 – 4 blood oranges (peeled and sliced  1/8 -inch thick)

3 Fuerte avocados

1/2 cup blood orange olive oil

1/4 cup D’Anjou white balsamic vinegar

1/4 teaspoon agave nectar

1/2 bunch romaine lettuce (chopped)

4 chilled salad plates

Directions: Chill four salad plates in the freezer.

Trim off the ends of each fennel bulb. Slice thinly (crosswise). Set aside. Peel oranges. Trim off the extra pulp. Slice off ends and discard. Halve oranges from top to bottom and then slice into 1/4 -inch thick slices. Set aside. Peel avocados and cut in half. Discard seed. Slice avocados into 1/4 -inch thick slices. Set aside.

In a mixing bowl, whisk together olive oil, balsamic, and agave nectar. Set dressing aside.

To serve, place a handful of lettuce on each chilled salad plate. Arrange oranges, fennel slices, and avocados on top of the lettuce. Drizzle with a good tablespoon or more of dressing. Serve while plates are still cold.

Lemon Zest Pasta

Zest is a food ingredient that’s prepared by cutting or scraping the outer skin of citrus fruits, including lemons. Lemon zest may be used fresh, dried, candied, or pickled. It is a flavorful addition to many culinary delights, including pastries, jams, and liquors. Here’s a unique pesto-pasta recipe that I serve in the winter that benefits from fresh lemon zest. I like to use Meyer lemons in this recipe.

Ingredients:12 ounces farfalle (bowtie) pasta

2 cups baby arugula

1 tablespoon lemon zest

1 tablespoon minced garlic

1 cup toasted walnut pieces (divided 1/4 and 3/4 )

3 tablespoons organic olive oil

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon pepper

1/2 cup golden raisins

Directions: Cook pasta according to package directions. Drain pasta, reserving a scant 1/4 cup of the water. Set aside.

Using a zester, grater, or paring knife, scrape the zest from the outside of one large lemon. Set aside.

Pulse the arugula, zest, garlic, 1/4 cup walnuts, the oil, salt, and pepper in a food processor until blended, scraping inside of the bowl as needed. Return the pasta to pot and add pesto, stirring to coat. Stir in the remaining 1/4 cup walnuts, the raisins, and the reserved pasta water. Serve while still warm.

Citrus and Winter Greens

Fresh dark kale greens pair well with the citrus and garlic in this recipe. The tamari sauce and garlic make a tasty combination, and the sweetness from the orange juice compliments the kale’s bitterness.

This recipe uses a cooking technique called blanching. The vegetables are cooked briefly in boiling water and then submerged in ice water to stop the cooking process. By blanching the vegetables, they retain their color, crunch, vitamins, and minerals.

Ingredients: 4 cups fresh dark kale greens

1 tablespoon sesame oil

3 large cloves garlic (minced)

1/2 cup fresh orange juice

1/2 cup gluten-free tamari sauce

1/4 teaspoon crushed red chili pepper flakes

1 tablespoon toasted sesame seeds

Directions: Clean kale leaves under cold running water, unfurling the leaves to make sure all the dirt is gone. Remove the leafy ends of the greens from the tough stems. Hold the stem in one hand, grasp the leafy part with your other hand, fold it in half, and tear the leafy part away from the stem. Discard the stem and tear (or chop) the leaves into smaller chunks.

Bring a large pot of water to a rolling boil. Add the greens and bring the water back to a boil. As soon as the water is boiling, remove the greens and put them into a large bowl filled with ice and water. This will shock the greens and immediately stop the blanching process.

Heat the sesame oil in a large skillet on medium heat. Add the garlic and sauté until caramelized. Next, add the orange juice, scraping the sides of the skillet with the liquid to deglaze the caramelized garlic and blend it into the sauce. Simmer until the sauce is reduced by half. Add the tamari sauce and the chili flakes. Continue to simmer until the sauce becomes syrupy.

Divide drained kale among four salad plates. Pour sauce over the greens and toss well to coat. Garnish with the toasted sesame seeds and serve immediately.

Marinated Manchego Tapas

What is manchego? Simply put, it is a sheep’s milk cheese made in the La Mancha region of Spain. It is aged anywhere from two months to two years. It has a firm, compact consistency with a buttery texture and a distinctive flavor that is well developed but not too strong.

In the Cervantes novel “Don Quixote,” the man of La Mancha and his sidekick Sancho Panza spend many pages nibbling on manchego cheese and washing it down with generous amounts of wine. I think they would have liked marinated manchego.

I look for cheese that is two or three months old because it has a softer consistency. For the marinade, I use satsuma tangerines, which are available from December through February. They are sweet with an almost tropical flavor. Perfect for this recipe. If you can’t find satsumas, look for super-sweet Lee tangerines.

Begin making this a day ahead of time. The prep is elaborate but worth the time and effort.

Ingredients: 1 large head of garlic

1 cup olive oil (divided)

1/4 teaspoon salt

1 – 2 satsuma tangerines

1/4 cup sugar

1/2 cup water

16 ounces young manchego cheese (cut into  1/4 -inch pieces)

1 tablespoon fresh rosemary (chopped very fine)

1 tablespoon fresh thyme (chopped very fine)

1 baguette

Garlic Directions: Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Cut  1/4  inch off the top of garlic bulbs and place them on a sheet of foil. Drizzle with 1/4 cup oil and season with salt. Wrap tightly in foil and bake until skin is golden brown and cloves are tender, 35–40 minutes. Remove from oven and allow to cool. Squeeze individual garlic cloves into a large bowl. Set aside.

Satsuma Directions: Using a zester, scrape the peel of the tangerine to get as much peel as possible – but not the white pith beneath. Set aside. Cut 1/2 -inch off top and bottom of the zested tangerine and cut it lengthwise into quarters. Squeeze juice from flesh into a small bowl and set aside.

Cut the zested peel into 1/4 inch pieces and place in a small saucepan. Cover peels with cold water. Bring to a boil, then drain. Repeat the process once more to remove bitterness (cold water, boil, drain). Return peels to the saucepan and add the sugar, water, and the tangerine juice. Bring to a boil; reduce heat and simmer, occasionally stirring, until peels are soft and liquid is syrupy – about ten minutes. Remove from heat and allow to cool.

Assembly: Add tangerine syrup, manchego, rosemary, thyme, and the remaining 3/4 cup of oil to the bowl with the garlic. Gently toss to combine. Cover and chill for at least four hours before serving. Bring marinated manchego to room temperature before plating.

While manchego is coming to room temperature, gently warm the baguette in the oven. Serve the manchego with the oven-warmed baguette.

Tip: The manchego can be marinated up to five days ahead of time. Cover and refrigerate until ready to use.