How to Roast Hen of the Woods Mushrooms
April 2, 2017 – 4:40 pm | Comments Off on How to Roast Hen of the Woods Mushrooms

I’ll be the first to confess that elaborate mushrooms scare me a bit. The otherworldliness of enokis, the meatiness of King Trumpet stalks, the sponge-like texture of Lion’s Manes.
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The Citrus Bowl

Submitted by on February 7, 2010 – 2:14 pmOne Comment
Dean & Deluca

An inviting citrus display recently spotted at Dean & Deluca

On the eve of the Super Bowl, I’ve got the Citrus Bowl on my mind.  Only in my world, the Citrus Bowl actually refers to a huge platter on my kitchen counter piled high with mounds of sunny, spherical fruit.  (Sorry football fans; I don’t even know who’s playing tonight…)  You see, I’ve been on a major citrus bender recently.  The available offerings this year seem even more plentiful than usual, with amazingly sweet mandarins, dramatic blood oranges and exotic pomelos playing wingman to winter standbys like navel oranges, tangelos and pink grapefruits.  It’s enough to make a girl forget about her beloved Clementines, whose season has pretty much passed.

Much Ado About Citrus

Diets higher in citrus fruits have been associated with a decreased risk of stroke. A large, prospective study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association back in 1999 quantified the protective effect as follows: each additional serving of citrus fruits (including juices) in the diet was associated with a 19% reduced risk of stroke (the effect size was even greater for women than for men).  High citrus fruit consumption in the diet has also been shown to correlate more closely with a reduced cancer risk than high Vitamin C consumption, indicating that there’s something protective going on in those citrus fruits beyond just the Vitamin C.

As the above suggests, citrus fruits are a prime example of a whole food being greater than the sum of its parts, nutritionally speaking.

California Mandarins--stems, leaves and all--are in season now, and are astonishingly delicious

California Mandarins--stems, leaves and all--are in stores now. They're astonishingly delicious.

The membranes of a citrus fruit, for example (those white and translucent skins and stringy bits that surround the fruit segments) are loaded with several phytonutrients called flavonoids.  Examples of such flavonoids found in oranges, for example, include limonoids and hesperidin; both compounds which are currently being investigated for their cholesterol-lowering and blood pressure-lowering effects.  And according to the research scientists at the USDA whom I grilled recently, while it’s true that these compounds do make it into citrus juice, levels tend to be higher in fresh-picked, unprocessed fruits (or fruit juices squeezed at home from fresh fruits)–particularly when you eat the membranes too.  And while we’re on the topic of squeezing your own juice, here’s a fun little citrus fact I picked up from my buddies at the USDA: there’s a compound that occurs naturally in mandarins/satsumas called synephrine, which is the same ingredient you’ll find in many popular cold and allergy  medications (like Sudafed).  So loading up on some mandarins or squeezing yourself some mandarin juice if you find yourself under the weather this cold season is a scientifically-based, natural way to get some relief while getting some fiber and meeting your Vitamin C requirements for the day. Take that, Sudafed!  (Note that synephrine is also the same compound that replaced ephedra in many diet pills under the code name Citrus Aurantium, although there’s no compelling data to suggest it actually helps people lose weight.)

**2011 Update: For a great field guide to some of the more exotic citrus varieties, check out David Lebovitz’s great blog post on Citrus**

A Caveat about Grapefruit

You may have heard that you should avoid grapefruit or grapefruit juice if you’re taking certain medications, including certain calcium channel blockers (for high blood pressure), statins (for high cholesterol), immunosuppressants and antidepressants.  Not only is this true, but the interaction also occurs with grapefruit-related citrus fruits such as Pomelos and Seville Oranges (otherwise known as Sour Oranges or Bitter Oranges; they’re popular in Hispanic cuisine). There are multiple culprits in these fruits that are responsible for the interaction, including the flavonoid called naringin, which competes with these drugs for the same metabolic pathway in the liver.  Grapefruit wins the competition, which means the drug circulates for longer in the body before being broken down.  This results in potentially dangerous blood levels of the drug and a high risk of adverse effects.

Citrus Salads, Sweet & Savory

There are so many awesome citrus flavor combinations:  Orange and mint.  Grapefruit and fennel.  Orange and beets.  Grapefruit and vanilla.  Orange and almond. It’s really hard to go wrong.  But just to get you started, here are a few of my favorite ways to work through the mounds of wintry citrus love on my kitchen counter:

  • Grapefruit Vanilla Salad (serves 4):  Combine 2 cups water + 3/4 cup sugar + 1 vanilla bean, split in half lengthwise, in a saucepan.  (Don’t worry, you’re not actually going to be eating all of this sugar…)  Stir over low heat until the sugar dissolves.  Once its dissolved, stop stirring, turn up the heat and boil the syrup for 1 minute.  Turn off the heat and let cool completely.  Remove the vanilla bean and either discard or reserve for garnish.  Pour the syrup in a bowl with 3 lbs of sliced pink grapefruit, mix well, and let marinate in the fridge for at least an hour.  Serve with a slotted spoon.    A great brunch dish.  Works beautifully with a sprinkle of fresh, chopped mint leaves, too.
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