Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Shiny Happy Memories

Warning: Dangerous levels of glorious food imagery coming up - beware of getting mesmerized.

Blood oranges. Just the name itself is beyond fascinating to me. You see them so rarely in my neighborhood grocery, that when I saw them a few days ago, I couldn't believe my luck. I couldn't have missed them. There they were, in all their ruddy, blush-colored glory, sitting right next to their sherbet-hued cousins from Florida. Blood oranges work really well in salads, marmalades and savory dishes, because they are not as sweet or acidic as regular oranges. They're pretty high in antioxidants too. But forget all that mumbo-jumbo ... would you please just look at them?! I realize I'm running the risk of sounding like I'm still in grade school, but isn't nature cool?! The answer is YES! Naturally gorgeous food like this just begs to be photographed, turned into a painting, sculpture, any kind of art, and even have a line or two of poetry dedicated to it. Personally, I want to find fabrics of those colors - the sunset color of the skin, the deep burgundy of the flesh - and wear them! And oh yes, eat them ... food like this needs to be savored.
Kristin from Picky Cook has the perfect recipe for a Blood Orange Yogurt Cake, which is so easy to make. I just followed her instructions, and got inspired by her amazing photos. Seriously, if you think my shots of this recipe are decent, you will be blown away by hers!

The other reason I chose to make something with blood oranges at this time is because it suits this month's
Sugar High Fridays theme (hosted by Heather from Diary Of A Fanatic Foodie), which is inspired by our travels. And one of my favorite travel destinations so far has been southern California (one of the few places in the world that grows blood oranges, apart from Italy), and it holds a really special place in my heart. DH and I actually had our first vacation together there, and our stay on Catalina Island is the most memorable for me. The view as you approach the island by boat is truly stunning, and for a moment you forget you're still in the US - it's more like Fantasy Island, with those lush green hills in the back. We had a grand time there, because that was where we went for our first snorkeling adventure. Even though it was February and we had to wear full scuba suits to get into the water, it was still the experience of a lifetime. Then we went kayaking around the island. We even managed to spot a true-blue bald eagle! All in all, it was a magical time for DH and I, and even after all these years, we still consider our California trip as being truly special for us.
Approaching the harbor at Catalina Island, California

Blood Orange Yogurt Cake
(all credit humbly goes to
Kristin's recipe)
Click Here For Printable Recipe

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1 cup plain whole-milk yogurt (I let my regular yogurt sit in a cheese-cloth covered strainer for 15 mins)
1 cup plus 1 tablespoon sugar
3 extra-large eggs
zest of three blood oranges
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1/3 cup freshly squeezed blood orange juice

For the glaze:
1 cup confectioners' sugar
2 tablespoons freshly squeezed blood orange juice
1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Grease an 8 1/2 x 4 1/4 x 2 1/2-inch loaf pan. Line the bottom with parchment paper. grease and flour the pan.

2. Sift together the flour, baking powder, and salt into a bowl. In another bowl, whisk together the yogurt, 1 cup sugar, the eggs, blood orange zest, and vanilla. Slowly whisk the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients. With a rubber spatula, fold the vegetable oil into the batter, making sure it's all incorporated. Pour the batter into the prepared pan and bake for about 50 minutes, or until a cake tester placed in the center of the loaf comes out clean.

3. Meanwhile, cook the 1/3 cup blood orange juice and remaining 1 tablespoon sugar in a small pan until the sugar dissolves and the mixture is clear. Set aside.

4. When the cake is done, allow it to cool in the pan for 10 minutes. Carefully place on a baking rack over a sheet pan.
5. While the cake is still warm, pour the blood orange-sugar mixture over the cake and allow it to soak in. Cool.

6. For the glaze, combine the confectioners' sugar and blood orange juice and pour over the cake.
Verdict: So moist and tender! Interestingly, this recipe doesn't contain even an ounce of butter; instead it uses vegetable oil. And during the process, your kitchen smells like a fragrant orange orchard ... *deep breath* aaaaaaaaaaaaahhhhhhh. This is good cake, people. Great for breakfast or afternoon tea. But so far I've had it at all times of the day and found it light and refreshing, with its bright citrus flavor. Also, it doesn't require any special equipment, like a stand mixer. Me likey.

See the pretty specks of orange zest? And how about that blood orange syrup that's soaked in?

Mmmmmmm ... if I had to give a cheerful smile a color, this would be it!