Déjà vu! Here I am again in the Culinary Corner. My first seating was back on April 13, 2000, chatting about sampling at the Chili Cook-Off. Last Saturday, April 17, I returned as “Head Judge” for the fun fest.
When last we spoke, I was celebrating Christmas and New Year’s 2009 with my husband, Richard, our kids, and grandkids. This year on Easter we celebrated the Resurrection of Christ and Richard’s entrance into heaven, after his valiant seven-year battle against lung cancer caused by second-hand smoke.
Many of my friends and relatives have asked if I will return home to Fresno. No, I will remain in the home we built on Happy Hill, content to continue the legacy begun by the senior Macedos in 1955. Though much changed since then, this community has the same gracious and generous spirit as before.
This year’s weather provided us with a bumper crop of oranges, navel oranges in particular, just enticing us to eat out of hand. Carmelle Dowdle gave me a local one about the size of a softball, and it met every expectation. The thick rind provided me with rich zest to stir into my hot tea; and the supremes (the juicy flesh carefully cut out from between the membranes) made a heavenly ambrosia fit for the gods, studded with sweet flakes of coconut, and dressed with a splash of my favorite orange liqueur.
I also prepared candied strips of the peeling, reserving the orange-infused simple syrup to stir into iced tea this summer. The absolute best way is to cut the golden globe into thin wedges from top to bottom, forming smiles to share with the kids — such a healthful snack.
Please notice I did not make the most prevalent current error, and call it a “healthy snack.” Healthful, adverb = conducive to good health. Healthy, adjective = description of a person. Health, noun = what we all strive for, I trust.
Like many others, I always wondered what caused the dimple on the navel orange, until one evening when I heard a wonderful five-minute tale on National Public Radio. I researched it further at www.npr.org/templates/storyand learned that the navel indicates where a second orange would have formed if the original fruit had not mutated way back in the 1800s. The vestige remains within one end, if you gently pull the fruit apart.
The story is that a Presbyterian minister was enjoying oranges in a grove at a Catholic monastery in Bahía, Brazil. One branch on a sour Valencia orange tree which was originally carried west by Spanish missionaries produced very sweet, juicy, seedless fruit. His ingenuity in propagating a cutting, and sending the baby new trees to the US-DA, ultimately led to a flourishing industry in Riverside County, Calif., before the turn of the century.
Orange Sauce for Chicken
1 large navel orange, peeled clean of white pith
1 cup chicken stock
1 tablespoon sugar
2 tsp. peanut oil
1 small chunk of fresh ginger, peeled and minced
1 tsp. soy sauce
1 tsp. cornstarch
Pinch of pepper
Cut one-half cup of the orange segments into a small saucepan; squeeze the juice from the remaining fruit into the pan. Add the remaining ingredients, stirring to dissolve the cornstarch, and bring to a boil. Cook and stir, mashing the orange until the sauce thickens, about five minutes. (Mince some of the peel and add in if you wish to intensify the flavor.)
Serve warm with chunks of your favorite chicken. Makes about one cup.
Editor’s note: The Culinary Corner’s new schedule calls for it to appear the fourth and fifth Thursdays of each month, so look for it again next week.
Please send your favorite recipes to Consuelo, at The Cambrian, 2442 Main St., Cambria CA 93428; or e-mail to Cambrian@thetribunenews.com.