My Darling Clementines

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Clementines, those darling little oranges, have become wildly popular in recent years — and with good reason.

They are delicious, easy to peel, no trouble to section and drip-resistant, so clothing doesn’t get stained. Unlike most oranges, they have only a little pith, which quickly peels off. Perfect in portion size, clementines pack well in lunches because they don’t crush or bruise. Best of all, clementines are sold in bulk at reasonable prices. They come in packages of 10 to 40.

Technically, clementines are part of the mandarin family. While they are available all year, the best-tasting ones are at their peak from December through February. I suggest stocking up right now. Look for clementines that are firm but slightly soft. They should feel heavy for their size. Wrinkled skin means they’re overripe.

Clementines do not need refrigeration. They last two to three weeks at room temperature, but I find they’re gone long before that.

After buying a crate of clementines, I display these mini cuties in a crystal bowl on my dining room table. This attractive centerpiece encourages healthy, low-calorie snacking. I enjoy seeing my family grab them when they think I’m not looking. There’s only one downside — my centerpiece is often depleted when company arrives.

Do not be afraid to buy a hefty crate of clementines. If they are not consumed, clementines perk up recipes. They add sparkle to salads of all kinds and zest to pastries. There’s no such thing as too many of these orange beauties.

Wintery Mix Clementine Salad | Pareve

Serves four

  • 2-3 clementines
  • 4 teaspoons chopped pecans
  • 1 endive
  • 1 small head of red radicchio
  • 1 cup baby arugula, packed tightly
  • 1 cup baby spinach, packed tightly
  • 4 teaspoons golden raisins
  • 4 teaspoons olive oil, or more, if needed
  • 4 teaspoons lemon juice, about 1 lemon
  • Kosher salt to taste

Peel the clementines. Pull apart the sections and remove the pith. Cut each section into two or three pieces, depending on the size. Reserve.

Preheat an oven or toaster oven to 350 degrees. Line a baking pan with foil. Spread the pecan pieces on the foil. Bake for 1-2 minutes, until the pecans turn golden. Watch them constantly as they burn easily. Remove the pecans from the oven and bring them to room temperature. Reserve.

Break the endive into leaves. Cut each leaf into three pieces. Core the radicchio and cut it into bite-sized pieces. Rinse the endive, radicchio, arugula and spinach under cold water. Dry these four lettuces in a salad spinner or on paper towels. Move them to a large salad bowl.

Add the remaining ingredients, along with the clementines and pecans. Mix the ingredients with salad tossers until well-coated with olive oil and lemon juice. Add more if desired. Serve immediately.

Simple Clementine Fruit Salad | Pareve

Serves four

  • 4 teaspoons slivered almonds
  • 1 large apple of any kind, peeled, cored and sliced thin
  • 16 green grapes, cut in half lengthwise
  • 8 strawberries, hulled and cut into thin slices
  • 2 clementines, peeled, separated into sections and pith removed
  • 5-6 teaspoons honey

Preheat an oven or toaster oven to 350 degrees. Line a baking pan with foil. Spread the almond pieces on the foil. Bake for 1-2 minutes, until the almonds turn golden. Watch them constantly as they burn easily. Remove the almonds from the oven and bring them to room temperature. Reserve.

Arrange the ingredients evenly on four dessert plates, starting with the sliced apple, followed by the grapes, strawberries and clementines. Drizzle the honey on top of the fruit. Sprinkle on the almonds. Serve immediately.

Clementine Compote | Pareve

Yield: ¾ cup of compote

  • 6 clementines
  • 3 tablespoons brown sugar
  • 3 tablespoons granulated white sugar
  • 3 tablespoons orange juice
  • 2 teaspoons bourbon
  • 1 teaspoon lemon zest

Peel the clementines. Pull apart the sections and remove the pith. Cut each section into two or three pieces, depending on size. Reserve.

Place the two sugars into a medium-sized heavy pot. Pour the orange juice and bourbon over them and stir. Add the clementine pieces. Cover the pot and heat on a medium-low flame.

Every minute or two, mash and chop the clementine pieces using a wooden spoon. When the pieces are softened, raise the flame to medium-high and bring the mixture to a bubbling boil, until the liquid nearly disappears, about 3-5 minutes.

Watch the mixture constantly so it doesn’t boil over or burn because all the liquid disappeared. Add a little more orange juice, if necessary.

Remove the pot from the flame and stir in the lemon zest. Bring the compote to room temperature before moving it to a container that seals well. Refrigerate until serving. Serve over vanilla ice cream, coconut sorbet, plain yogurt, pancakes or oatmeal.

al62/Thinkstock

Clementine Torte | Dairy

Serves six to eight

Equipment: 7½-inch springform pan

  • Nonstick vegetable spray
  • 1 large clementine
  • ½ cup (1 stick) sweet butter at room temperature
  • ½ cup sugar, plus 1 teaspoon
  • Pinch of salt
  • Pinch of cardamom
  • ¾ cup flour
  • 1 egg, hand beaten in a small bowl
  • ¼ teaspoon vanilla, plus ¼ teaspoon
  • ½ pint heavy cream

Coat a 7½-inch springform pan with nonstick spray. Preheat your oven to 400 degrees.

Using a grater, zest the skin of the clementine. This should yield about 1 teaspoon of zest. Gently break the clementine into sections and remove the pith from the each section. Reserve.

In a mixing bowl, cream the butter, ½ cup sugar, salt and cardamom until the butter is fluffy. Add about half of the flour and beat to combine. Scrape in the egg and beat until the mixture is moistened. Add the remaining flour and ¼ teaspoon vanilla. Beat briefly until incorporated.

Spread the mixture evenly in the prepared pan. Place it in the oven and bake for 20 minutes. The top should be lightly browned and a cake tester or toothpick inserted in the center of the cake should come out clean of batter. Cool to room temperature.

When ready to serve, make a whipped cream topping by placing the heavy cream, 1 teaspoon of sugar and ¼ teaspoon vanilla into a large bowl. Beat on high speed, stopping the beater every minute or so to check the progress. The cream will gradually thicken and then rather quickly turn to whipped cream. If the cream is over-whipped, it will become butter.

Spread about two-thirds of the whipped cream over the top of the torte. Save the rest to put in coffee. Place the clementine sections attractively on top of the whipped cream and serve immediately.

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