The Internet, we know, is a terrific place to ask, answer, and generally chat or vent about the pressing questions of the day, like why can’t you get the real Boggle game on your Android device or a stick shift on your new Chevy Malibu. Sometimes the questions are about food. Regina Schrambling, over at Epicurious’s excellent blog Epi-Log, recently asked, and entertained some answers to, a question that apparently has a lot of people exercised: Why can’t one buy a lone clementine, or two clementines, instead of a great big mesh bag or crate of them? In the comments section there, and, as I discovered, in a bunch of other message boards across the Web, there’s something of a revolt afoot among single people, and couples with limited budgets or appetites, against being forced to buy more clementines than they need. A lot of people feel victimized by the Spanish fruit marketers who make us buy the little fruits in bulk.
I have a different clementine complaint. Many of the ones I buy are drab and boring, long on ribs and fiber and short on flavor and sugar. Others seem to have turned the corner and gotten gamy and overripe. Roughly half are pretty good. Usually I ask myself why I didn’t just pick up a decent organic orange or tangerine instead. If I had I’d have gotten more fruit, not to mention a higher ratio of fruit to strings and ribs. More important, I’d have gotten better odds of getting a really tasty sugar fix. And I could have bought—or, as my children said when they were little, boughten—exactly the number I needed, with no waste.
Let’s stipulate, nevertheless, that you have boughten or been given a crate of clemmies. (Their season in the stores spans Christmas but still is lingering on here in February.) How do you make sure they’re going to taste good and sweet? I found a neat answer in a fine blog, Nikki Gardner’s Art & Lemons. Nikki serves them in a syrup of cane sugar, apricot jam, and bourbon, which works for me. The recipe is below, along with one for Maple Walnut Wafers you can serve alongside and, if you like, dip in the syrup.
Art and Lemons is a vegetarian blog, with something of an emphasis on rustic and seasonal dishes from New England, where Nikki lives, but with a global sensitivity as well. Many of the recipes have both a vegan and a non-vegan option. I like the blog because Nikki shares—in a casual and offhand way, not in the pseudoscientific language of the test kitchen—how she came to settle on a preferred way to make something. You benefit from her trials and errors so that you don’t have to go through them yourself. Her headnotes are first-person-y, as bloggers’ headnotes often are, but not self-important; they read as snapshots of the often funny things that happen to be going on around her as she cooks. Her splendid photos tend not to zoom in on the food, but show you the food in a natural context—in this case, a home that pretty much is the Platonic ideal of what a house in the hills of Western Massachusetts ought to be. The lighting is natural and ample, but not as bright as what you get in Martha’s Connecticut or Ina’s Long Island. You sense the shadows cast by the nearby hills.
Nikki’s full post for the clementines in syrup, with the wafers alongside, is here. Here is the recipe.
Clementines in Syrup
Yield: about 1 cup
- 6 clementines (zest 1)
- 1/2 cup natural cane sugar
- 1/4 cup apricot jam
- 1/4 cup water
- 2 tablespoons good bourbon
- Wash and dry the clementines, grate the zest from 1, and set aside.
- Add the zest to a small saucepan along with the sugar, jam, and water. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat, stirring constantly, then simmer on low for 10 minutes. Remove the syrup from the heat, let cool for a minute, then add the bourbon; set aside.
- Work over a small bowl (to catch the juice) and use a sharp knife to carefully remove the rind along with the white pulpy skin from each clementine (the cells should be completely exposed). Cut the clementines crosswise into 1/4-inch-thick slices. Place them close together in a shallow dish and pour the syrup on top. Cover and refrigerate for 12 to 24 hours. Serve with Maple Walnut Wafers.
Maple Walnut Wafers
Yield: about 2 dozen cookies
- 1/2 cup unsalted butter or vegan margarine (melted)
- 1/2 cup natural cane sugar
- 1/4 cup pure maple syrup
- 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
- 2 tablespoons water
- 1 1/2 cups white spelt flour
- 1/2 cup oat flour (grind 1/2 cup rolled oats to make flour)
- 1/2 cup ground toasted walnuts
- 2 teaspoons baking powder
- 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
- Preheat oven to 350F. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper; set aside.
- Mix the flours, walnuts, baking powder, and salt together in a medium bowl; set aside.
- In a large bowl, beat the melted butter, sugar, syrup, and water together until well blended. Stir in the dry mixture to form a smooth dough.
- Scoop about a teaspoon of dough at a time and roll into balls. Place the dough balls onto the parchment lined baking sheets and gently press down with the bottom of a drinking glass to flatten each cookie.
- Bake until lightly browned on the edges, about 12 minutes. Cool for 10 minutes on the baking sheet before removing to a wire rack to cool completely. Store in a sealed container.
Recipes and photo used by permission of Nikki Gardner