Orange Appeal, Savory and Sweet
Oranges are one of the fruits we take for granted, aren’t they? Thanks to their keeping qualities and a steady supply on grocer’s shelves, we expect to be able to pack a navel in our lunches whenever it strikes us. But really, oranges deserve our full attention, with their balance of juicy sweetness and bracing tartness. There are culinary possibilities galore in the blazing orange pulp and zest. These fruits are way more than juice.
All Oranges, All The Time
Just in time for citrus season, we have a new gem of a cookbook, Orange Appeal; Savory and Sweet, by Jamie Schler, Photos by Ilva Beretta, published by Gibbs Smith.
I know Jamie Schler as the brilliant writer behind the Life’s a Feast blog, where she writes evocatively about her life, food, and France. She also collaborates with talented photographer Ilva Beretta on the Plated Stories blog, and Ms Beretta did the beautiful photos for this book, as well.
Jamie Schler grew up in Florida, with all the oranges she could eat, and never tires of the sweet, tart flavor and citrusy perfume of her favorite fruit. Schler spent her childhood smack in the middle of the most celebrated citrus growing region in the World. In her home, oranges, grapefruits, tangerines and other juicy citrus fruits were always on hand for meals and snacks.
But when she grew up, learned to cook, and delved into the foods of other cultures, she realized that she had been missing out. Eating fresh fruit had been enough, for all those early years, but her family had never really cooked or baked with the beloved orange.
Savory Orange, Onion, and Olive Focaccia
Makes 1 large 10 x 14-inch (25 x 35 cm) or larger rectangle
WHETHER BAKED UP THICK AND FLUFFY or rolled out thin and crispy, this focaccia highlights the delicious combination of onion, orange, and olives, making a fantastic, unusual bread for dinner, a snack, or as part of a light meal. The amount of topping you use will depend on the size of your focaccia as well as the size of your oranges and onions; just know that the flavors mellow and the onions shrink when baked. The focaccia is best eaten warm from the oven but is excellent eaten when cooled.
1 1/2 tablespoons granulated white sugar
2 1/2 teaspoons (1/4 ounce / 7 g) active dry yeast
1 1/4 cups (315 ml) warm water, divided
4 cups (19 ounces / 540 g) all-purpose flour, divided, plus more for kneading
2 teaspoons salt
3 oranges, finely zested, about 1 1/2 tablespoons
4 tablespoons olive oil, divided
1 to 2 oranges
1 to 1 1/2 yellow or red onions
1 cup (100 g) cured black, green, or purple olives
Sea salt flakes, preferably smoked, coarse salt, or Orange Salt (page 22)
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
Fresh oregano or thyme leaves, optional
Place the sugar, yeast, and 1/4 cup (65 ml) of the water in a bowl, and let stand for 15 minutes until the yeast has dissolved and the mixture is foamy. Place 3 3/4 cups (500 g) of the flour, salt, and zest in a large mixing bowl and rub together with your fingers until blended and there are no clumps of zest; make a well in the center of the flour. Pour 2 tablespoons oil, the yeast mixture, and remaining water into the well and stir with a wooden spoon until a rough dough forms; if there are any pockets of flour that won’t blend in, add 1–2 tablespoons more warm water at a time, only as needed.
Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured work surface and knead in the remaining 1/4 cup (40 g) flour. Knead the dough for 6 minutes, dusting both the dough and the work surface lightly with more flour to keep the dough from sticking. The dough should be soft, smooth, and elastic.
Oil a large, clean mixing bowl with 1 tablespoon of the oil. Place the ball of dough in the bowl, turning to coat the surface of the dough with oil. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and a kitchen towel and let rise for 1 hour until double in size.
Prepare the toppings by peeling the oranges, cutting away all the white pith, and slicing across the core into 1/4-inch (1/2 cm) slices, about 6 slices per orange. If you prefer, slice each round into 4 triangles. Peel and trim the onion and slice as thinly as possible—cut the onion in half if easier—separating the slices into rings. (continued)
Preheat oven to 400 degrees F (200 degrees C).
Scrape the risen dough onto a lightly floured work surface and roll out into a 10 x 14-inch (25 x 35 cm) rectangle. Transfer to a parchment-lined baking sheet and roll and press back into shape. If you like, use wet fingertips to make indentations across the surface of the dough where a little oil can pool. Brush dough with remaining 1 tablespoon oil and arrange the oranges on the surface; pressing gently into the dough. Spread the onions evenly over the focaccia. Dot with the olives, pressing firmly into the dough, and dust with salt, pepper, and oregano. Bake for 30–40 minutes until risen and golden.