Common Scents

It goes without saying that what I miss the most about my time in New York City are the wonderful friends I made and left behind. We snuck into the city for a long weekend last week, and I’m still a little embarrassed to have not seen everyone there that I love. At one point I found myself drinking an almond butter vegan smoothie on the Lower East Side debating if I could make it to the Upper East Side, Fort Greene and onto a barbeque in Williamsburg by 5PM. (Fort Greene and a visit with Aleza won out, and the passion fruit and cocoa nibs doughnut  convinced me I made the right decision.) We also managed to see the Cindy Sherman exhibit at the MoMA and watched my Cousin David give his first improv performance at a club in Long Island City. (He was far and away the best on the stage. Rich says I’m not allowed to say anything negative about his fellow performers, so I’ll leave it at that.)

There is one other thing I really miss about the city. It’s a little strange to say, but I miss the smell – in particular, the smell of candied nuts being peddled on every corner from the top of Manhattan to the bottom of the island. There’s a kiosk or two down by Downtown Crossing, but nothing compares to the sugared perfume found on every street corner midtown. I’ve thought about lobbying Yankee Candle to capture the scent in wax.

I managed to abstain in the city, but tonight I made these. (It’s a reprise of a dish from my birthday party; my father-in-law took quite a liking to them.) It’s a riff off a smitten kitchen recipe that Deb had also riffed off of. I changed the cayenne pepper to ancho chile powder. If that’s not in your spice cabinet, no need to go to the market. You can always use cayenne, or even smoked paprika. Although nuts can get expensive, I bought this can of cashews at Ocean State Job Lot for $3. I’ve noticed Trader Joe’s tends to have a good price on nuts as well. The choice of nut is entirely up to you.

And yes, your house will smell like New York City. That’s a good thing.

Sugar-and-Spice Candied Nuts Adapted from smitten kitchen who adapted from Elizabeth Karmel of Hill Country

Karmel says: “A mason jar full of nuts and a pretty ceramic bowl is my favorite gift. If you bring these to a party, tell the host or hostess to hide them, or they will disappear.”

Ingredients

1/3 cup dark brown sugar

2/3 cup white granulated sugar

1 teaspoon kosher salt

Generous pinch ancho chile powder

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1 pound nuts – cashews, walnuts, pecan halves – this is entirely up to you

1 egg white, room temperature

1 Tablespoon water

Directions

Preheat oven to 300 degrees.

Mix sugars, salt, chile powder, and cinnamon, making sure there are no lumps; set aside. Beat egg white and water until frothy but not stiff. Add nuts, and stir to coat evenly. Sprinkle nuts with sugar mixture, and toss until evenly coated. Spread sugared nuts in a single layer on a cookie sheet fitted with parchment paper. Bake for 30 minutes, stirring every 10 minutes. Remove from oven, and separate nuts as they cool. When completely cool, pour the nuts into a bowl, breaking up any that stick together.

With A Little Help From My Friends

When Sylvie was in college, she was co-founder and president of her house’s fruit club. I’m not sure if they had to officially apply to be fully recognized by the administration, but I do know they held their meetings following the house’s Friday afternoon wine and cheese hour, which followed the Friday afternoon tea. (And we wonder why college costs $55,000 a year.)

Because they went through the bother of founding a fruit club, she and her co-members steered away from eating the everyday apples and bananas. They enjoyed some fruits one usually reads about in Saveur magazine, like the Asian mangosteen and the New World custard apple, which has quite a striking resemblance to an artichoke if I do say so.

They also loved enjoying fruit that was complicated in its preparation, like the pineapple, the pomegranate and the pomelo. I’m going to assume you’ve probably heard of the first two, but chances are you might be unfamiliar with the third. The pomelo is a rather large citrus fruit from Asia, and oftentimes Israel. (You can find it locally at Russo’s.) Sometimes its skin is green, sometimes it’s more yellow, and it looks like a grapefruit on steroids.

However, if you picked up this mammoth citrus fruit, you’d be very surprised as to how light it is. The actual amount of fruit in a pomelo is more akin to a clementine or maybe a tangerine. And it takes a good 10 minutes to actually get to the fruit. First there’s the thick skin to cut through. Then there’s an almost impenetrable bitter pith that surrounds the fruit. I hope I haven’t scared you away from trying a pomelo, I promise you it’s a very nice refreshing fruit when you finally get to it.

That fruit, in particular, creates a lot of refuse. As Syl likes to kid, “If it wasn’t all compostable, I’d call the EPA about it.” But my friend Sara came up with a wonderful solution: candying it. Using a Martha Stewart recipe meant for the common orange, or maybe a grapefruit, Sara had the genius and foresight to do the same with the pomelo skin. I thought I would then dip the candied citrus in a ganache and make a pomellete (orangette, but with pomelo) but, honestly, it’s great as is.

Full disclosure: This was all Sara. She did all the legwork on this one, from coming up with the idea, to patiently paring away the thick pith, to taking the photographs. I’m just not up to doing the standing that’s necessary to get a good angle on paring away the pith. Sara’s also got infinite amounts of patience for other extremely time-consuming, detailed tasks, like making blood orange marmalade or cultivating her own yogurt or baking sourdough bread from scratch every week. Oh, and being a lawyer and a mommy.

Don’t worry, I reciprocated as best I could this weekend, hosting her boys to enjoy some cupcakes I’d won off a blog contest. As you can see, H really enjoyed his.

Candied Pomelo Peels, adapted from Martha Stewart Living December 2008

Please Note: Sure, you could also use this recipe for grapefruit or oranges, but try and find a pomelo. If you ask me, there’s nothing more exciting than trying a new food.

Ingredients

One pomelo (two grapefruits or three oranges or four lemons)

4 cups sugar, plus more for rolling

4 cups water

Directions

Using a paring knife, make 6 slits along curve from top to bottom of the pomelo, cutting through peel but not into fruit. Using your fingers, gently remove peel. Reserve fruit for another use. Slice each piece of peel lengthwise into 1/4-inch-wide strips. Using a paring knife, remove excess pith from each strip and discard.

Place strips in a large saucepan, and cover with cold water. Bring to a boil, then drain. Repeat twice.

Bring sugar and water to a boil, stirring occasionally until sugar dissolves, then stop. Wash sides of pan with a wet pastry brush to prevent sugar crystals from forming. Add strips to boiling syrup, reduce heat to medium-low, and simmer gently until strips are translucent, about 1 hour. Remove from heat, and let strips cool in syrup. (Strips in syrup will keep, covered and refrigerated, for up to 3 weeks.)

Using a slotted spoon, transfer strips to a wire rack placed on a rimmed baking sheet. Wipe off excess syrup with paper towels, then roll strips in sugar. Arrange in a single layer on a wire rack, and let dry for at least 30 minutes.