I love groves and orchards and trees and berry bushes.
I love forests.
I get it from my father who secretly wishes he lived in a box-like cabin in the middle of a forest. A rainy, autumn-like forest, suits him best. And you know, it all stems from our upbringing. If you have ever been to the Basque Country you will know the moody and saturated colors due to rain. Xirimiri, we call it. The non-stop light drizzle of rain and fog days on end. I always loved it and I miss it now. It is very obvious how much I miss that xirimiri. I certainly found it here.
A reader sent me a kind email a few days ago and in her words… “it’s very clear to me that you have a close relationship to nature and plants”, she said. It struck me that she was able to sense it from this blog. “I do, don’t I?”, I replied and then I smiled. And I know that you must think I live surrounded by a gigantic garden and tree-lined streets by looking at all the photos of produce I share here. Well, not quite. Certainly not groves and orchards or forests that I dream about. I have to travel to get my fix.
So at the beginning of the new year, we packed the car and drove three hours away to visit Uncle Matt’s – one of the very few organic citrus groves left in Florida. Remember when we visited last year?
It was a damp and cold winter day, just what I had been longing for. Those days are a rare treat in Florida and a nice contrast to the warmth and golden-toned light we are surrounded with all year-round. We packed our rain gear and headed north to Clermont for an afternoon with the McLeans.
Mr. McLean Sr (I think I can call him Benny now) and Matt welcomed us with open arms and took that Friday afternoon off to spend time with us and show us around the different groves. Matt’s wife Susan and their two little girls joined us as we picked different varieties from the trees. The children listened to Benny as he explained the proper way to pick the fruit without damaging the tree, what to look for and how to taste and smell it. They loved slurping the grapefruit juice from a tiny cavity that Benny carved in. They looked up to him with admiration. He is gentle, funny and passionate about his citrus. He exudes this air of Southern tradition and hospitality that is very engaging.
We sampled orange and red navels, grapefruits, honeybells, which weren’t quite ready yet, tangelos, and my favorite… the pommelos.
Have you ever tasted a pommelo? It looks like a very large grapefruit with thick skin. The flesh is very pale pink, but unlike the grapefruit, not too sour. In fact, I find that it is the perfect balance of sweet and sour. It can be quite difficult to find it at the markets around here so I was really excited to pick some once again. My mom was also blown away by their size, amount of juice and taste. We couldn’t stop eating them.
The children ran in the mud, indulged in citrus and hid behind the trees.
The perfect-lined rows of tangelo trees simply made my day.
Oh and the peach trees were already blooming, ready for ripe fruit in the Spring.
Aren’t they beautiful?
We returned home with bags and bags of all kind of citrus.
We enjoyed freshly-squeezed juice everyday and colorful salads with citrus. Like this roasted beet, fennel, pommelo and orange navel salad with a simple vinaigrette of pommelo juice, champagne vinegar and a little bit of pistachio oil. I don’t even have a recipe, just tossed it all together.
I made an orange and chocolate marble pound cake (not photographed here) with oat and almond flour. It was very delicious and I will share the recipe soon.
And then, I adapted this raspberry, pommelo and corn cake from the latest issue of Elle à Table – a mixture between cornbread and cake. We loved it after lunch and for breakfast the next day. I hope you will try it.
Thank you the McLean family once again for inspiring us to live and eat more consciously.
We will be eternally grateful.
Pommelo, raspberry and corn cake
adapted from Jan 2013 issue of Elle à Table
makes a 9 by 4-inch loaf pan and a 6-inch cake pan
Note about the pans. This is a very airy cake batter and because there is no gluten, I try to bake it in small and narrow pans. If you are to bake it in a larger cake pan, make sure that you don’t pour all the batter in. I think 3-inch high is the tallest I would go or the cake might sink in the middle. This is a crumbly cake so don’t fret!
16 tablespoons (225 g) unsalted butter
1 cup (200 gg) natural cane sugar
2 tablespoons finely grated pommelo or grapefruit zest
1 teaspoon orange flower water (optional)
4 eggs, at room temperature
1/4 cup (60 ml) pommelo or grapefuit juice
1 1/2 cups (200 g) corn flour
1 cup (100 g) cornstarch
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon ground chia seed
1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
8 ounces (225 g) raspberries
Preheat oven to 350F (180C). Oil the inside of the loaf and cake pans. Line the bottom with parchment.
Melt the butter over medium heat and let it cool to room temperature.
Combine the sugar and pommelo zest in the bowl of a stand mixer. Rub them between your fingers to release the natural oils from the zest (this will make it very fragrant). Add the orange flower water and eggs and whip the mixture over high speed until pale and thick, about 5 minutes. Add the juice and mix.
In the meantime, whisk the corn flour, cornstarch, baking powder, chia and salt in a bowl. Fold the dry ingredients into the egg mixture trying not to deflate the mixture too much. Fold in the cooled butter until it becomes a homogenous batter. Divide the raspberries on the bottom of the pans and pour the batter on top.
Bake for about 30 to 40 minutes until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Let the cake cool in the pan for 20 minutes and then inverted onto a cooling rack.
For the glaze:
I simply mixed together 1 cup sifted powdered sugar, vanilla bean and a few teaspoons of pommelo juice until thick but pourable.