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January 11, 2005

Small Time Cooks

Maria and I were watching late-night television after a hot night on the town. We were just in time to see two chefs race toward a giant tuna to try and get its head. The show was Iron Chef, and an idea hit us like a cold wind on a January morning¬ówe would get our own secret ingredient and make dinner with it. Maria wanted to get people in on it, so we had a friend over for our own cook-off. Our secret ingredient was orange, so we made a couple of Italian favorites with a citrus twist.

Orange Bruschetta

1 large orange

1 tangerine

1 tomato

Mint leaves

Parmesan

Olive oil

French bread, sliced

Cut the orange into quarters, and cut the flesh out of three of them. Save the rind. Dice this flesh and put it in a bowl. Seed the tomato, dice its flesh, and add it into the bowl. Add in the juice of the rest of the orange and the tangerine. Finely chop about three mint leaves, and add them to the bowl. Let sit for about 15 minutes. While the ingredients are sitting, zest about 1 teaspoon of the orange peel, and add to some olive oil. Spread over the bread, and top with shaved Parmesan. Bake at 400 degrees for about five minutes. Top with the orange and tomato mixture, and serve.

Citrus Passion Salad

1 orange

1 tangerine

2 Tablespoons plain yogurt

Pinch of cardamom

1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 teaspoon lemon juice

1 1/2 Tablespoons walnuts

Peel the orange and tangerine and remove the white skin. Cut them into wedges and remove all the seeds. Toast the walnuts in an oven at 400 degrees for three minutes. Combine all the ingredients in a bowl and mix well. Cardamom is very potent, so be careful not to add too much.

Josh's Orange and Red Pepper Risotto

Olive oil

Onion

Arborio rice

Grand Marnier

Dry white wine

Vegetable broth

1 orange

1 red bell pepper

Parmesan cheese

Black pepper

To start, cut the flesh out of half the orange and dice. Seed and slice the red bell pepper into strips and cut them in half. Juice and zest the other half of the orange and save. Dice about a quarter cup of onion and pour about a Tablespoon of olive oil into a pot over medium heat. Simmer for about eight minutes or until the onion is soft, stirring occasionally. Measure one and a half cups of Arborio rice, and heat two and a half cups of vegetable broth in a pan. When the onion is soft, add in the Arborio rice and stir. Immediately after, add a shot-worth of Grand Marnier, or another orange flavored liquor. Stir, and add a splash of dry white wine, such as Vermouth.

Stir the risotto constantly with a mostly flat wooden spoon, and when it starts to become dry, add in about a quarter cup of the broth, the orange flesh, and the red peppers. Keep stirring, and add the broth a quarter cup at a time. Add more broth only when the rice begins to dry out. When the rice is almost cooked through, add the orange juice and zest as if it were broth. When the grains no longer have a hard center, stop adding broth. Stir in some grated Parmesan cheese and some black pepper, and serve.