This morning the view outside my kitchen window resembled a black and white photograph…white snow, black tree silhouettes and a gray sky. Though that isn’t always such a bad thing, today I felt the need to inject a little color into my life. I was in the mood to trade in black turtlenecks, woolly socks and downcast skies for a pair of flip flops, shorts and a poolside lounge chair but, finances and schedules ruled out a quick trip to the tropics. Thinking I could bump out of my funk with a cooking project, I checked out the contents of my refrigerator when lo and behold, nestled among the endive, radicchio and celery lay four naval oranges.Just looking at those bright orange balls raised my spirits. It’s citrus season and nothing beats oranges for that tart, yet sweet at the same time taste. In a flash, I cooked up a batch of caramel oranges, a super easy dessert- breakfast-snack that always brightens my outlook. I like this dish best when it has been in the refrigerator for a few hours. The brittle caramel melts and makes an orangey, caramelly sauce that you’ll want to lick off the plate. This time, for a little exotic zip, I added a pinch of ground cardamom seeds to the syrup right before drizzling. I really liked how it perfumed the caramel with a hint of eastern pizazz. So even though the sun hasn’t graced us with its presence for a few weeks, today I have the taste of sunshine in my mouth. I just might make it to March after all.
Kitchen Counter Point: Cardamom is a warm, pungent spice used in sweet and savory Indian curries and some Scandinavian breads. You will find it in a few different forms at the grocery store. It can be bought as 1) pods, 2) whole seeds, and 3) ground. I like to buy it as whole seeds and crush or grind them just before using. That way the flavor is at its peak. Though you can buy the pods and crush them to free the seeds, it is a bit of a bother to separate the seeds from the crumbled pod.
4 naval oranges
1/2 cup sugar
3 tablespoons water
1/4 teaspoon cardamom seeds, ground in a mortar and pestle or a pinch of ground
Peel the oranges by cutting off the top and bottom to make them flat and then slicing around the circumference of the orange with a sharp knife, cutting away the peel and white pith. Then cut the orange crosswise into about 6 sections and arrange them on a heat-proof platter.
Add the sugar and water to a saucepan and swirl over low heat until the sugar has dissolved. Do not stir. Turn up the heat to high and bring to a boil. Once the syrup is boiling, cook it for about 4 minutes or until the syrup has browned to a rich caramel color. It will be very bubbly. Watch it closely as there is less than a minute between sublime and burned. Add the cardamom seeds and swirl them to combine and drizzle the syrup over the oranges. Serve immediately or let sit in the refrigerator for a few hours so that the oranges macerate and make a caramel syrup.