By Elisa Ludwig
The official culinary history of why oranges are exchanged for Christmas is a bit murky—some say that the pithy fruit represents St. Nicholas’ sacks of gold; others say that the tradition began during the scarce times of the Great Depression. Regardless, oranges and their citrus brethren offer a sunny burst of color and a sweet reprieve during the shorter days of winter, no matter which holidays are being celebrated.
One of our favorite recipes from Steve’s At Home cookbook is Citrus Fruit with Lemon-Cardamom Honey and Pistachio Praline. This dish comes at a time when fresh fruit is often sorely lacking on the table, when too many cookie binges and cocktail parties merit something lighter but still luxurious. It’s ideal for a holiday brunch alongside latkes or gingerbread pancakes, or New Years’ blini and caviar. It can also serve as a beautiful dessert (with or without some cookies).
The cardamom-spiked honey makes a hauntingly fragrant counterpoint to the fruit, but feel free to experiment with your own favorite spices—fennel, black pepper and rosemary would all be delicious. If you can find them, blood or Cara Cara oranges add another show-stopping dimension. To make in advance, segment the fruit up to a day ahead. The honey and praline can also be made up to a week ahead and stored in an airtight container. You could also just make the praline, break it into larger chunks and package it in a mason jar or a white confection box. Either would make a great holiday gift!
Citrus Fruit with Lemon-Cardamom Honey and Pistachio Praline
20 green cardamom pods, crushed
¼ cup lemon juice
½ cup honey
¼ cup water
1 cup sugar
¼ cup water
1 cup shelled, unsalted pistachios
2 teaspoons kosher salt (optional)
6 medium navel oranges, peeled and segmented or sliced
3 medium red grapefruit, peeled and segmented or sliced
2 blood or Cara Cara oranges (optional), peeled and segmented or sliced
1 cup blackberries
1. Make the honey: In a dry pan, toast cardamom pods until fragrant. In a small saucepan, combine cardamom, lemon juice, honey and water. Bring to a simmer and cook until reduced to ¾ cup. Allow to cool. When ready to use, strain out seeds and spices through a fine strainer and reserve honey in a bowl.
2. Make the praline: Lightly grease a rimmed baking sheet. Combine sugar and water in a saucepan over moderate heat and stir to combine. Increase heat to high and cook for 10-12 minutes. Swirl saucepan occasionally but don’t stir after initial stirring. When syrup turns a dark amber, remove from heat and immediately add pistachios. Gently swirl to coat nuts. Let mixture settle down and then pour into prepared baking sheet. Sprinkle with salt, if using. Set aside to cool. When mixture is completely cool, break it into large chunks. Set in food processor and pulse until you get a fine consistency.
3. To serve, drain any excess juice from citrus. Place citrus in a wide bowl or divide between individual bowls. Scatter blackberries over the citrus. Drizzle with cardamom-lemon honey. Sprinkle pistachio praline on top.