Orange Peels

November 7, 2011

We ate dinner as a family when I growing up. Every night we’d gather at the kitchen table. My mom is handy in the kitchen, and she would cook most nights. As I got older, I would help. When I really young, there’d be all six of us – me, my parents, and my three older siblings – but as I grew older, the number got smaller, and the amount of dinners we ate together decreased. My oldest sister, Laura, went to college when I was nine, and my brother followed four years later. Then, when I was in middle school, I was on a swim team that practiced from 5-7pm (and my other sister, Sarah, was too) but my parents saved plates for us most of the time, and when they didn’t, it usually meant that we could stop at Burger King or Leo’s Coney Island on the way home.

I’ve been reminiscing about my childhood family dinners this past weekend, particularly about my dad. I remember how he could be really engaging and fun during meals. He would bribe my sister to eat mushrooms, which she hated (for the record, she started eating them when she was older and now loves ’em). He always had riddles and jokes, and on special occasions, he would ask Buck Questions, a game he invented that involves increasingly difficult trivia, science, or math questions and $1 prizes which became a tradition in my family that we still play.

I don’t remember dessert being a big part of our family dinners. On occasion my mom would make a apple crisp, or we’d have some ice cream, but dessert wasn’t a daily occurrence. My dad always ended dinner, though, with fruit – he still does – and that’s what got me reminiscing about family dinners to begin with.

After he was finished with his meal, my dad would take his plate to the sink, then pick up some oranges from the fridge. He’d sit back down with a steak knife, and start turning the orange into the blade of the knife, and before long, he had removed the peel in one long piece. You could pick up the peel, and it would look like a slinky. He’d offer orange slices to anyone that wanted them, and when the first orange was gone, he’d pick up another one and do the whole thing again.

When I was older, he used to let me try to peel the orange, but I was nowhere as good as he was. His peels seemed perfect – a uniform thickness from end to end, and he would remove the white pith, too, without ever sacrificing any of the orange flesh. My dad is a master at peeling an orange. I watched him do it the last time I saw him, when I was in Michigan in September.

I wrote yesterday about how I picked up some oranges from the unlikeliest of places, the parking lot at Home Depot. I came home with seven oranges. I juiced one of them, and on Sunday, I looked at the remaining six and decided they’d all be practice oranges.

I want to peel an orange as well as my father can!

Attempt #1:

Pretty good pith removal, but the peel broke in two places, and it’s uneven in thickness. I can do better.

Attempt #2:

Check out this peel!

All in one piece! It’s a little thick, though, and the pith mostly stayed on the orange:

I have four more oranges. That’s four more attempts. I’ll probably try it again at least once today.

I love a good fruit challenge!

Keep it up, David!

The Innards of a Passion Fruit

September 27, 2010

The innards of a passion fruit are green.  Did you know that?  I didn’t!  I found that out when I cut one of the passion fruits I bought at the farmer’s market open:

It looks kinda gross, but trust me, smells so good.  I decided I would use them in a little sauce that I was making to go over ice cream, which I was planning to serve to a couple friends that were gonna come over tonight.  I scooped the green goo out of all three passion fruits:

My friend Heidi, in the comments section the other day, suggested I give the innards a go-around in the food processor, to aid in the separation of the seeds from the goo.  But since would involve digging my food processor out of the cupboard, dusting it off, and plugging it in, I decided to skip it, and just go apeshit crazy pushing the goo through a sieve with a rubber spatula:

I watched last week’s episode of “Top Chef: Just Desserts” while I did this.  That Seth guy makes for great TV!  In this episode, he broke down into a sobbing fit during the Quickfire judging, and then it was one confrontation after another with him and the various other cheftestants.  When he spit out the sentence “The Red Hots are for my mommy!” while crying and fiercely hugging the guest judge…  well, that may be the best moment of the season for this show  – that’s right, I’m calling it now, even though they’ve only aired 2 episodes.

Anyhoo, after mashing and mashing for about 15 minutes, I was left with a few tablespoons of passion fruit juice.  I put about a teaspoon in a class of sparkling water (another Heidi suggestion, and it was delicious):

The rest went into a saucepan, along with about 3 cups of frozen blackberries, and the juice of 1 orange.  The idea was that I’d cook it on low for a little while, bringing it to a simmer, and letting it reduce into a nice thick syrupy-type sauce.  For a while, it was going quite well, until I stepped away from the kitchen to go quickly send an email.  And you know how writing 1 email turns into writing 4 emails AND checking Facebook AND checking out your blog stats?  My suggestion to you is not let that happen while a sauce is reducing on the stove.  I came back into the kitchen, and it had reduced past syrup stage and into sludge stage.  Thank goodness it hadn’t burned on the bottom of the pot.  It was practically the consistency of molasses, so I decided I needed to thin it out a little bit (I forgot to take photos during this time…  I was too busy cursing under my breath).  I grabbed an orange and started juicing it, but it was not until after I added the juice of 1/2 the orange that I realized it wasn’t an orange, it was a small grapefruit.  So now I have sour sludge.  I stirred it for a little while longer and got it to my desired consistency, and then mashed it through the sieve, to separate out the blackberry seeds.

Because I let it reduce so much, I wasn’t left with tons of sauce, but it’s a pretty color, and hopefully, it won’t be too sour:

I tried a little bit of it, and it wasn’t bad…  I just think the grapefruit overpowers the passion fruit.  My friends and I decided to reschedule for tomorrow anyway – so I’ll let you know what they think!  Hopefully it’s a hit.

Keep it up, David!