Getting to know a place eventually requires a trip to the market. Step into a local market and discover valuable cultural information, right there on the supermarket shelf. City markets filled with ready-made convenience food show a wholly different snapshot of daily life than the mom-and-pop corner store with a deli counter and an aisle of mismatched necessities.
It wasn’t until I started frequenting farmers’ markets that I really started to understand just how different California was from Massachusetts. Back east, vegetables were named simply: potato, lettuce, corn. In Massachusetts I never thought of varietals, hybrids, heirloom, and organics. But at the markets of California, I saw fruits and vegetable I’d never heard of. I experienced produce that tasted more real than anything I’d experienced before.
Suddenly, a tomato wasn’t just a tomato. An orange could be any number of different things.
After scanning cookbooks in search of the perfect ending to a culinary celebration with my friend Leah of Spicy Salty Sweet, I found Suzanne Goin’s recipe for “Creamsicles” and sugar cookies in Sunday Suppers at Lucques. Before thoroughly reading the recipe, it was easy for me to conceptualize the dessert. I would serve sugar cookies with a bowl of vanilla ice cream, topped with freshly squeezed orange juice. It wasn’t until I actually read the recipe that I realized I was about to enter into uncharted citrus territory.
First off, Suzanne’s recipe called for several pounds of tangelo a kind of citrus I have heretofore never heard of. So, having only the idea that the fruit I was seeking must be orange and of the citrus family, I decided to go to the market and taste my way through the different farm stands until I found the most juicy, sweet orange I could find.
And boy, does California have oranges. There were sweet satsumas, tiny clementines and tart Mandarin oranges. As I scanned the stands I started to realize just how little I knew of citrus. Back home in apple-country Massachusetts, I knew only superficial information on lemons, limes and oranges. To me growing up there was no such thing as varietal differences. The only choice to be made in shopping for an orange was California vs Florida. Other than the occasional shipment of (undefined) tangerines, we New Englanders rarely saw anything else.
Lucky for me, one of the first stands I stumbled upon at the Hollywood Farmer’s market was Friend’s Ranch, from Ojai. After sampling their incredible fruit, I fell in love with the complexity of flavor offered by the Ojai Murcott. The bright orange Murcott is a kind of tangerine (some say it’s a mandarin) that’s prized for its juiciness and incredible balance of sweetness and acidity. With my new citrus-school learning under my belt, I bought 3 two-pound bags and happily came home to begin cooking.
This recipe really is California on a plate: bright, sweet and a little bit bitter. So put on your flip flops, open up the windows and let the California sunshine pour in. Or, if you live anywhere else in the world, just buy a big bowl of bright orange citrus, close your eyes and remember back to the good old beach days of “Creamsicles”.
Deconstructed “creamsicles” with Lindsay’s sugar cookies
based on Suzanne Goin’s recipe from Sunday Suppers at Lucques
For the Creamsicle
½ gallon of great tasting ice cream. I prefer Haagen-Dazs.
5-6 cups freshly squeezed tangelo, murcott or other tangerine juice
Lindsay’s sugar cookies
Candied Tangerine Zest
Note: this recipe makes more than you need for the cookies. Save the extra in an air tight container. This makes a great topping for ice cream or an interesting compliment for any cheese plate.
¾ cup granulated sugar
Using a peeler, make long strips of zest about 1/3 inch wide. Place the zests into a small pot, cover with cold water and bring to a boil for a minute. Drain, rinse with cold water and repeat this process two more times.
Place the sugar in the pot and add ½ cup of water. Add the blanched zest and bring to a boil. Turn the heat down low and cook slowly for about 30 minutes. The liquid will become thick and syrupy.
Lindsay’s* sugar cookies
*Chez Panisse’s pastry chef, Lindsay Shere
1 cup (two sticks) unsalted butter
¾ cup granulated sugar, plus a little for rolling
1 extra-large egg yolk
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
2 cups all-purpose flour
¼ teaspoon kosher salt
at least 6 pieces candied tangerine zest
and black peppercorn if you’re feeling particularly adventurous
Cream the butter on a high speed (hand or stand mixer) for about a minute. Add the sugar and beat until light and fluffy for about 3 to 4 minutes on medium high. Add the egg yolk and vanilla and beat a few more minutes until its light and fluffy. Slowly add the flour and salt and mix at a low speed until the dough comes together.
While logs are chilling, preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Keep busy and julienne the candied tangerine zest. When logs are properly chilled, slice the logs into 1/4 –inch-thick rounds.
Top each one with the candied zest. I topped half of my cookies with freshly crushed black peppercorns for a burst of flavor.
Bake 10 to 12 minutes or until they’re lightly browned on the bottom.
Now you’re ready to make your dessert:
Place two scoops of ice cream in a bowl or glass tumbler. Pass a pitcher of tangerine juice around the table for your guests to pour over their ice cream. Serve the cookies with or on the side of the ice cream. Enjoy!