Last week my husband brought home a box of Cuties.... you know, those wonderful little mandarin oranges. They are beautiful - tart-sweet and juicy with soft supple skins that are easy to peel cleanly away from the succulent seedless flesh inside. We ate three just as he brought them into the house. Then later we ate several more. For breakfast I ate another... well you get the picture.
I do love them, but there are several still in my fruit basket today and I really wanted to come up with something different to dress them up a bit. So I started thinking, hoping maybe I could find a way to incorporate them in my Valentine’s Day menu.
The first thing that came to mind was a recipe I had found in “Picnic: 125 Recipes with 29 Seasonal Menus” by DeeDee Stovel, last summer. I had found the recipe while working on a menu for a picnic we had planned but for some reason didn’t end up happening. It was so simple as to be unforgettable so I decided to give it a try. I made the recipe for two but it could easily be adjusted for any number expected at your table or picnic blanket.
Oranges in Cointreau
2 mandarin oranges, peeled and separated into sections
1 or 2 tablespoons Cointreau, or other orange flavored liqueur
Remove any white strands that are loose on the outside of the orange sections.
Stir together oranges and liqueur. Store in the refrigerator until ready to serve.
Garnish with mint leaves if desired.
Simple and easy, this is a lovely salad or could be served with biscotti or small butter cookies for dessert. I mixed the Cointreau with orange segments and began to clean up around the kitchen. There were a few things out from the night before that needed to be put away, including some snack mixes in little bowls. One snack mix was by Sahale Snacks, a brand sold at Target. It is called Valdosta Blend and is a mixture of pecans, dried cranberries, black pepper and orange zest. I thought of what an interesting addition that would be to my orange salad. So I embellished the recipe above by pouring the snack mix into my salad bowl.
Orange Pecan Melange
1 recipe of Oranges in Cointreau, as described above
2 tablespoons Valdosta Blend nut mix (or 1 tablespoon broken pecans, toasted, 1 tablespoon dried cranberries and a pinch of freshly ground pepper)
Stir ingredients into the Oranges in Cointreau. Refrigerate for at least 20 minutes to allow flavors to blend before serving.
That took a simple luscious fruit dish and added visual contrast as well as a zing to the palate with the addition of the black pepper in the snack mix. It would make an attractive side dish, served in a small glass bowl or other small dish. Then as I was setting it in the refrigerator until dinner, I saw that I had some leftover baby arugula and a smidgeon of Newman’s Own Light Balsamic Vinaigrette. I couldn’t help but think what a great green salad this Orange Pecan Melange would make. It would be romantic and pretty enough for a intimate dinner for two but also a great addition to a festive holiday dinner or a dinner party menu.
Orange Arugula Salad
1 recipe Orange Pecan Melange
2 cups bably arugula leaves
2 tablespoons Newman's Own Light Balsamic Vinaigrette
Arrange the baby arugula on two salad plates. Drizzle with the Balsamic Vinaigrette. Arrange the orange pecan mixture on top of the greens.
Serve and enjoy!
Note: I think I will also try this recipe with pitted black cherries instead of orange sections and with Kirsch instead of Cointreau, when cherries are season.