Saturday, July 22, 2006

Orange Orange Obsession

A friend once told me, the orange is like the earth. Like the earth, which is composed by 3 elements—crust, mantle and core—the orange also has 3 distinct portions: the zest, the white pith and the juicy centre.

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The juicy centre is what I like best. Best when eaten raw, either cut into wedges and stretched before eating or simply halved and gorged out with a metal spoon. Nothing beats nature’s clever design of cramping thousands of tiny sacs that squirt flavour when bitten into. The other thing I love is juicing oranges. I find the process of rolling then to break the sacs, halving and then squeezing them for juice is not only therapeutic with a drinkable end product that is gratifying and refreshing.

Other than its core, I’ve re-discovered and learnt to appreciate another aspect of the orange, its zest. Although I’ve mindlessly followed recipes, which have called for orange zest to be added into stews and baked goods, I guess I never really did stop to consider the real oomph that gives to the foods it is added to… until last week. Inspired by a Homemade Spaghetti with Lobster, Basil and Orange Oil dish that I had in Union Square Café, where the orange oil played a primary role in lifting the dish and giving it subtle citrus accent, I started off my orange-obsession weekend by infusing orange oil. Once I started zesting, the scent of the natural orange oil was addictive, I could not stop! I started looking for other ways that I could transform orange peels that I normally trash after extracted their juicy pulp. After an afternoon of zesting, cooking random orange zest recipes, cleaning out my fridge of my leftovers, I'm quite chuffed that I managed to put together a rather pretentious Union Square Café wannabe home-cooked lunch dish what I now call my Double-Orange Capellini with Prawns and that took me nearly 2 hours to complete.

Double-Orange Angel Hair with Prawns
Serves 2

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1 Tbsp Olive oil
1-2 cloves Garlic, peeled and chopped
½ tin of whole Roma tomatoes, crush tomatoes
6 Prawns, shelled and minced
150 g Angel hair
5 Basil leaves, chiffonade
Orange oil (recipe follows)
Orange zest confit (recipe follows)

1. Heat olive oil in a frying pan and sauté garlic until fragrant. Add crushed tomatoes and 50 ml water, then simmer, uncovered for 10 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Set aside.
2. Bring a pot of salted water to the boil. Cook angel hair until al dente, then drain and save some of the boiling liquid.
3. Heat a frying-pan with butter, sauté prawns, and then add sauce to heat through. Remove from heat, add pasta and basil, then toss and mix well.
4. Drizzle with orange oil and garnish with orange zest.

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Orange oil
Makes about 250 ml or 1 cup

250 ml Olive oil
Zest of 1 orange
¼ tsp black peppercorns
Pinch of salt

1. Combine all ingredients in a small heavy-bottom pot and bring to a simmer on medium heat.
2. Reduce heat and simmer for 30 minutes.
3. Set aside to cool completely, then use as required.

Orange zest confit

1 orange
100 ml water
30 g sugar

1. Peel orange zest using a potato peeler and julienne.
2. Place orange zest in a colander. Pour boiling water over to blanch and then run under cold water. Repeat process 3 times.
3. Bring water and sugar to the boil, reduce heat to a dimmer, add zest and simmer for 20 minutes. Store until ready to use.

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Blogger lobstersquad said...

I always used to take oranges for granted, but really, they´re an amazing fruit. And the zest is the best. I don´t know that I can brave those capellini, but they look wonderful.

6:25 PM  

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