A taste of sunshine for February

It seems to make sense that during the months with the least sunshine – January and February – we are blessed with sunshine in another form: tangy, juicy citrus fruits such as clementines, navel oranges, Seville oranges for marmalade, grapefruits from Florida, and standard lemons to give recipes a kick. The zest is as important to cooking as the meat of the fruit itself. There are few recipes that cannot be improved by the addition of citrus in one form or other – juice or zest. Here are some tastes of sunshine to jazz up those grey winter days.

Persian yogurt cake

Mothers in Persia were known to make this simple yet delicious cake for their families. Similar to our pound cake, the yogurt cake could have a number of variations, and could be adapted to the needs and tastes of a particular family. In Persia, orange and lemon trees are plentiful, often in the family garden, making them a natural ingredient in numerous recipes, including this cake.

2 cups (500 mL) all-purpose flour
1-1/2 tsp (7 mL) baking powder
1/2 tsp (2 mL) baking soda
1/4 tsp (1 mL) salt
1 cup (250 mL) granulated sugar
1 cup (250 mL) plain yogurt
1/2 cup (125 mL) melted butter or vegetable oil
2 eggs (large)
1 tsp (5 mL) pure vanilla
Lemon glaze garnished with lemon and orange zest
1 cup (250 mL) icing sugar, sifted
2 tbsp (30 mL) fresh lemon juice
Grated rind of 1 lemon and 1orange

Pre-heat oven to 350°F (180°C). Line 9-inch (22 cm) cake pan with parchment paper and spray with baking spray.

In mixing bowl, sift together flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt. In separate bowl, whisk together sugar, yogurt, melted butter, eggs and vanilla. Stir liquid ingredients into dry ingredients, just until moistened. Pour batter into prepared cake pan and bake 35 to 40 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the centre comes out clean. Cool on cooling rack.

Glaze: While cake cools, sift icing sugar. Wash lemon and orange, then grate the zest onto parchment paper. Set aside. Squeeze the juice from half the lemon – this should give you 2 tbsp (30 mL) juice. If not, squeeze the other half and whisk enough fresh lemon juice into icing sugar to make a thick, but spreadable glaze.

Unmold the cake onto serving plate. Pour the glaze into liquid measuring cup and pour over the top surface of the cake, allowing it to drip down the sides. Sprinkle the reserved orange and lemon zest evenly over the surface of the cake. Decorate the base of the cake with alternate thin half-moon slices of orange and lemon. Cut into eight to 10 wedges to serve.

Rosewater-cardamom yogurt cake or muffins

This is a variation of the above recipe. The method of baking the cake remains the same, as do most of the ingredients, with the exception of the flavourings. Simply replace the vanilla with 1 tsp (5 mL) ground cardamom and add 1 tbsp (15 mL) rosewater as flavouring. The cake can be made with melted butter or oil. Rosewater is available in some grocery stores such as Loblaws and Bulk Barn.

For the glaze use 1 tbsp (15 mL) rosewater and 1 tbsp (15 mL) water to replace the lemon juice. Garnish the top of the cake with chopped pistachio nuts if desired, and decorate the base of the cake with thin half-moon slices of navel orange.

If you wish, the cake batter can be made into 10 muffins. Bake at 375°F (190°C) about 15 minutes or until golden brown and firm to the touch.

Orange, red onion and olive salad

This salad is best made with the luscious navel oranges available now. It is a wonderful accompaniment to pork, chicken or fish.

4 to 6 navel oranges, peel and pith removed
2 to 4 tbsp (30 to 60 mL) extra-virgin olive oil
1 red onion, very thinly sliced
1 cup (250 mL) large pimento olives, thinly sliced

Use a sharp knife to remove the top and bottoms including the pith of the orange. Starting from the top, cut down following the curve of the orange to remove all the skin and pith. Move your knife around the orange to remove all the skin. Slice the orange horizontally about 1/4 inch (6 mm) thick. Arrange oranges overlapping on a plate; sprinkle evenly with onions, olives and drizzle olive oil over all.

 

Jan Main is an author, cooking instructor and caterer  ~  janmainskitchen@yahoo.ca

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