A friend who was flipping through my second cookbook ‘sweet’ remarked on how many recipes I had with oranges in them. I hadn’t particularly noticed this or thought about it at the time, but I do really love using oranges in desserts. I also have an orange tree in my backyard which normally bears an abundance of the most delicious seedless navel oranges.
That alone is the inspiration behind many of my orange recipes, so when I heard that Jamie Schler, a talented food writer and blogger at Lifesafeast had written a recipe book all about oranges called Orange Appeal I knew I needed to jump on board. This recipe for mussels steamed in orange with fennel is from her book.
I have a digital copy of the book which is quite a novel concept for me, but certainly one I plan to embrace going forward. I love saving my favourite food mags to my iPad to access whenever I want. It certainly saves on a lot of space and I’m always taking my iPad into the kitchen to cook these days.
Orange Appeal is published by Gibbs Smith and is a collection of utterly inspired and delicious savoury and sweet recipes with oranges. Jamie writes beautifully so this is a book you will want to read from cover to cover. An American gal who grew up in Florida, she reminisces about the food of her childhood in the Sunshine State which was abundant with fruit and seafood growing up so close to a dense concentration of world-famous citrus groves, it’s no wonder that oranges left an indelible mark on her food memories and this book is a natural progression.
The chapters are divided into:
- Sauces, dressings, dips and relishes:
Think blood orange salsa with avocado, orange, and hummus vinaigrette, spiced cranberry & orange relish and Indian sweet-and-sour tamarind citrus peel condiment.
- Soups, salads, starters, sides:
Amongst others but recipes like – spiced red lentil and carrot soup, pea and shiitake orange risotto (I mean), orange and brown sugar glazed sweet potatoes and orange-braised Belgian endive with caramelised onions & bacon.
- Main dishes:
In this chapter, you will find twelve recipes including chicken, beef, lamb, seafood and an inspired zucchini and spinach quiche with orange, dates, feta and thyme.
- Breads (quick and yeast):
I’m obviously planning on making all these recipes, which will be an amazing resource next winter when oranges are in abundance. She has traditional cranberry and orange walnut bread, a savoury orange, onion and olive focaccia, as well as scones, muffins and biscuits.
- Cookies and treats:
Just when you think you are at the end there are three more chapters with decadent treats. Here you will find cookies, Madeleine’s, French orange financiers, chocolate orange marmalade brownies *inserts heart-shaped eyes emoji*, orange pecan shortbread with dried cranberries and a recipe for granola.
There is a whole chapter with nine orange cake recipes and again, I will be making all of these because I am obsessed with orange cake.
The final chapter is the biggest and includes sixteen inspired recipes that would finish off any meal perfectly. From poaching fruit in oranges to panna cotta, cobbler and her cookbook cover recipe of orange curd tartlets in a coconut pastry crust.
I can highly recommend this beautiful first cookbook by Jamie Schler and I love her cooking style and writing. Her recipes feel rooted in America with a strong French influence and a hint of Middle Eastern and Eastern exoticness.
Jamie Schler grew up in Florida surrounded by citrus groves on the stretch of the Space Coast sandwiched between the Atlantic Ocean and the Indian River. She now owns and operates Hôtel Diderot in Chinon, France, and has an award-winning food and lifestyle blog, Lifesafeast.net. Schler offers food writing workshops and writes articles for numerous magazines, including Fine Cooking, The Kitchn, France Magazine, The Art of Eating, Leite’s Culinaria, and Huffington Post
PS. I absolutely loved this recipe for mussels steamed in orange and fennel. If you read this blog you will know that I have the biggest crush on fennel right now and fennel and orange is a perfect flavour combination. I also thought the gremolata with pine nuts was inspired and it added a fantastic flavour and textural element to the dish.
I enjoyed this bowl of deliciousness with my sometimes assistant and friend Chrizanne, who popped around on the day and was also my hand model. Crusty white bread is an absolute must to dip into the sauce and or with french fries and Jamie recommends it. This is the pic I took on my iPhone of us enjoying lunch after the shoot.
Recipe from Orange Appeal by Jamie Schler. Reprinted by permission of Gibbs Smith.
Before we were married, my soon-to-be husband took my sister and me on a road trip, from Paris to Dieppe, to walk on the rain- and windswept beach and then eat Moules Frites, the traditional local fare, in a little seaside bistro. Since then, my husband and I have cooked innumerable pots of moules marinières, marinated mussels steamed in white wine, in a variety of styles, and always served up with a customary platter of French fries.
The joy of cooking mussels is multifold: it is inexpensive, quick and easy, it is a food rich in protein, iodine, iron, copper and selenium as well as a good source of calcium. And it is so impressive on the table. Once you master the technique of steaming mussels, you can vary it to adapt to your taste and pantry, in cream sauce, with lemon or curry, with chopped fresh tomatoes or in orange juice with the addition of the smoky, anise-flavour of fennel. Just use a light, dry, fruity wine such as a Muscadet.
- 4 1/2 pounds (2 kilograms) fresh mussels, scrubbed and debearded
- 2 large oranges, navels or juice oranges
- 1 small fennel bulb
- 3 to 4 tablespoons olive oil
- 4 small or 2 large shallots, peeled and chopped
- A large handful of fresh flat-leaf parsley, chopped, more for garnish
- Salt and pepper
- 1 cup (250 ml) white wine
- 2 tablespoons pine nuts, optional
- 1 small orange
- 1 small lemon
- 2 tablespoons finely minced fresh flat-leaf parsley
Pour the mussels into your sink and pick them over, removing and discarding any open mussels or any with a crushed shell. The rule of thumb to remember is: before cooking, discard all open mussels, after cooking discard any mussels that have remained closed.
To remove the beard, grab the hairy strings hanging out of the closed shell and pull out and down, yanking it sharply to pull it out of the mussel. Transfer the debearded mussels to a large colander. Run the mussels under cold running water, tossing and scrubbing, to wash off any sand and impurities.
Pare off 2 long strips of about 1 inch wide x 3 inches long of orange peel without the white pith and then juice the 2 oranges. Trim off the stems of the fennel bulb reserving about 1 tablespoon of the feathery fronds. Slice the fennel into long thin strips or matchsticks.
Heat the olive oil in a very large pot with a lid; add the minced shallots and the fennel matchsticks along with the orange peel and cook over medium-high heat, stirring, for 3–5 minutes or until the fennel is tender and transparent.
Add the fennel fronds, the chopped parsley, salt and pepper; add the mussels and, with a large slotted spoon, stir and toss the mussels to blend well. Pour the wine and the orange juice over the mussels and cover the pot tightly.
Steam, tightly covered, for 15 to 20 minutes, lifting off the lid just to toss the mussels occasionally for even steaming. The mussels will gently and gradually open, and once opened let them steam for another few minutes so the meat is tender yet firm.
Prepare the gremolata garnish while the mussels are steaming. Lightly toast the pine nuts in a skillet over medium heat with no fat, tossing and watching carefully so as to pull them off the heat immediately after they are golden brown; this should only take a minute or two. Finely zest the orange and the lemon. Toss the zests with the finely chopped parsley and the lightly toasted pine nuts in a small bowl.
Place a large ladleful or 2 or 3 of mussels in a soup plate with some sauce for each person. Top with some of the gremolata. Serve immediately with the traditional accompaniment of French fries, the rest of the bottle of white wine, and fresh bread and butter. And make sure that there is a large empty bowl in the middle of the table for the empty shells. And plenty of napkins.
A note on eating mussels. There are two ways to eat steamed mussels; one is to slurp directly from the shell after having scooped up a bit of the sauce. The other is to use one empty shell as a “pincher” to pinch and pull the mussel meat out of the other shells, like a primitive eating utensil.