Orange you lucky


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Fresh orange season is upon us and there are many ways to enjoy this healthful citrus fruit.

 

This time of year, we are fortunate that our California orange crops are at their best, or soon will be. My mom has an orange tree in her back yard, but she waits until just about March to pick them.


I just finished an orange before sitting down to write this column, so I am happy to dig through my favorite recipes that feature oranges.


The orange (and its many varieties) is very versatile as an ingredient in so many types of recipes. I appreciate that it is a fruit with all parts usable, except perhaps for the seeds, when present. The juice, pulp and rind can all be turned into delectable treats.


I hope the New Year is treating you well.


Citrus shortbread cookies


3 clementine oranges or small tangerines, washed and dried


3/4 cup sugar


3 cups flour


6 tablespoons cornstarch


1/4 teaspoon fine salt


3/4 pound unsalted butter (3 sticks), softened


1. Preheat oven to 325. Butter a 9-by-12 1/2-inch baking sheet, line with parchment paper, and butter the paper.


2. Finely grate the skin (zest) off all 3 clementines, making sure you peel only the orange skin and not the bitter white pith. Puree the zest with 1/4 cup of the sugar in a food processor until well mixed, about 1 to 2 minutes.


3. Whisk the flour, cornstarch and salt in a bowl. In a standing mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream the butter with the remaining 1/2 cup sugar on medium, until light and fluffy, about 8 minutes. Add the clementine-sugar mixture and beat for another minute.


4. While mixing on low speed, add the dry ingredients and mix just until combined. Do not overwork the dough. Transfer dough to prepared pan, spreading it out as evenly as possible. Cover with plastic wrap, then press and flatten using your hands over the top to smooth and even out the dough. Cut the dough into bars about 1 by 3 inches with a sharp knife, while still in the pan. Prick a decorative pattern in the shortbreads with a fork or a wooden skewer.


5. Bake in preheated oven until golden, about 1 hour and 10 to 20 minutes. Let stand for 5 minutes and then re-cut the bars along the previous cuts. Let cool completely on racks. Store the cookies in a sealed container for up to 2 weeks.


Orange juice with strawberries


1/2 cup fresh strawberries, stemmed and chopped


2 cups freshly-squeezed orange juice, chilled


1. Puree the chopped strawberries in a food processor or blender until smooth, about 1 minute.


2. Pour the berry puree through a fine-mesh strainer and discard the seeds, reserving the juice.


3. Stir the strained berry puree into the orange juice. Serve immediately or store in the refrigerator up to 2 days.


Orange pineapple punch


2 cups orange juice


2 cups unsweetened pineapple juice


2 tablespoons key lime juice


2 cups Sprite soda or similar type


Fresh raspberries and blueberries


Orange slices


1. Combine the pineapple juice, orange juice and key lime juice in a pitcher. Refrigerate for a few hours to chill the juices.


2. Right before serving, stir in the Sprite. Add fresh berries and orange slices to the pitcher.


3. Top filled beverage glasses with an orange slice. Serve immediately.


Orange dream bars


Crust:


1 cup unsalted butter


2 cups flour


1/2 cup sugar


1/4 teaspoon salt


Filling:


1/2 cup freshly-squeezed orange juice


Zest of 1 orange


1 teaspoon orange extract


1 1/2 cups sugar


1/4 cup flour


1/2 teaspoon baking powder


4 large eggs


Confectioners’ sugar for topping


1. Preheat oven to 350. Line a 9-by-13-inch pan with foil or parchment paper and spray with nonstick cooking spray.


2. For crust: Beat butter with a hand or a stand mixer until creamy, then add the flour, sugar and salt and beat until a dough forms. (If you’re using a hand mixer it will take extra time.) Press the crust into the bottom of the prepared pan. Bake for 18 minutes.


3. A few minutes before the crust comes out of the oven, prepare the filling. Place all filling ingredients into a blender jar and blend until smooth, a few seconds to almost a minute, depending on your blender. You can also do this with a whisk in a large bowl.


4. Carefully pour filling evenly over hot crust. Return to oven and bake until the top is no longer jiggly, about 20 to 23 minutes. Cool completely before dusting with confectioners’ sugar and slicing into bars.

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