Victoria's Vegetarian Victuals

Well, June is here, even on top of this pine-clad mountain of ours. June ... and June brides, and traditions, and orange blossoms, and ... ORANGES!

Back in the days of King Charles II (the Merry Monarch, 1660 - 1685), the place to be seen was at the theater, where the 'orange girls', including the beauteous Nelly Gwynne, one day to become the mistress of the king, wandered through the audience selling fresh and expensive oranges to the people in the crowd. People didn't brush their teeth much in those days, I'm told, and the taste of orange juice must have indeed been refreshing in a stale mouth.

A century later, when the tobacco craze from the colonies was catching on, there was even a greater demand for the taste-cleansing juice of this round golden fruit.

Even I remember my grandmother talking about the thrill of finding oranges in her Christmas stocking!

Oranges are a treat in any age or century, and some friends of ours in Florida even substitute a small orange tree for the traditional spruce Christmas tree, decorated (outside, of course, live and producing) with nature's very own round golden ornaments.

There are so many things that one can do with oranges. Here are a few of my favorites:

Fresh Florida Orange Cake with Toasted Almond Ice Cream and Strawberry Compote

  • 6 large oranges
  • 3 cups ground blanched almonds
  • 1/2 cup all purpose flour
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 cup melted butter
  • 6 eggs
  • 1/2 cup Cointreau
  • 1 1/2 quarts toasted almond ice cream
  • 1 recipe Strawberry Compote, recipe follows
  • Sprigs of fresh mint
  • Confectioners' sugar

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Grease a large sheet pan with butter.

Place the oranges in a saucepan over medium heat and cover with water. Bring the oranges to a boil and cook until soft, about 20 minutes. Remove the oranges and cool. Using a knife, remove the zest and fruit. In a food processor fitted with a metal blade, puree the zest and fruit until smooth.

In a large mixing bowl, whisk the remaining ingredients until smooth. Add the orange puree and mix well. Pour into prepared pan and bake until the center springs back, about 25 to 30 minutes. Remove from the oven and cool. Cut the cake into 24 equal pieces.

To assemble, place one piece of the cake in the center of 12 plates. Place 1/4 cup of the ice cream on top of each piece of the cake. Spoon some of the compote over the ice cream. Place another piece of cake on top of the compote, forming a sandwich. Repeat the above process with the remaining ice cream and compote. Garnish with mint sprigs and a sprinkle of confectioners' sugar.

  • Yields: 12-24 servings
  • Preparation Time: 1 hour

Strawberry Compote

Strawberry Compote
  • 3 pints of fresh strawberries, washed, patted dry and sliced
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup Grand Marnier

In a non-reactive saucepan, over medium heat, combine 2 pints of the strawberries, sugar and liquor. Bring the liquid to a boil, reduce the heat to medium and simmer until the fruit is soft, about 8 to 10 minutes. Remove from the heat and cool. In a food processor, fitted with a metal blade, puree the strawberries until smooth. Turn into a mixing bowl, and add the remaining sliced strawberries. Mix well.

  • Yields: 2 cups
  • Preparation Time: 15 minutes

Orange Melon Salad

  • 2 cups fresh squeezed orange juice
  • 2 slices of ginger
  • 4-6 cups mixed melon balls or cubes
  • Pinch of cinnamon (optional)
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons slivered fresh mint

Bring orange juice, cinnamon, and ginger slices to a boil over medium heat. Continue to boil until juice reduces to 1/2-3/4 of its original amount. Remove from heat and discard ginger slices. Let cool.

In a shallow pan, arrange fruit and pour juice over. Chill for at least 2 hours to overnight.

Transfer fruit to a serving bowl. Pour juice over the top and garnish with slivered mint.

  • Yields: 2-3 servings
  • Preparation Time: Prepare a day in advance

Beet Salad with Oranges and Spanish Onion

  • 12 whole baby beets; tops removed
  • 2 navel oranges (or sweet oranges)
  • 1/4 small spanish onion, halved lengthwise; thinly sliced
  • 10 mint leaves; coarsely chopped
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Extra-virgin olive oil

Place the beets, unpeeled, in a foil-lined baking dish. Cover with more foil and seal the edges of the top and bottom layers of foil to completely enclose the beets. Place them in a 400 degree F oven and bake for approximately 20 minutes or until the beets are tender when pierced with a sharp paring knife.

While the beets are baking, peel the oranges. First cut a thin slice from the top and bottom of the orange so that it can sit firmly on the countertop. Using a sharp paring knife cut the peel and pith off with sawing downward strokes so that the orange is completely peeled. Cut the individual sections out from the membranes. Place in a mixing bowl together with the onion and mint.

When the beets are tender, hold them under running water and slip the skins off. Trim the stem end, then cut them in half and then into slices. Add the beet slices to the bowl with the oranges. Season with salt and pepper to taste than drizzle the orange olive oil over to taste. Toss to mix. Can be served immediately or allowed to marinate up to 2 days.

  • Yields: 8 servings
  • Preparation Time: 1 hour

Orange Slice Cake

  • 2 cups sugar
  • 1 cup melted butter
  • 1 1/3 cup buttermilk
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 4 cups flour
  • 4 eggs
  • 1 pound small orange slice candies
  • 1 pound chopped dates
  • 1 cup chopped nuts
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 6 small coffee cans
  • 1 can cooking spray
  • 1/2 cup frozen orange juice (undiluted)
  • 1 cup brown sugar

Preheat oven to 250 degrees.

Begin by cutting orange slice candies into thirds and shaking them lightly in a plastic bag with 1/4 cup of flour. Blend sugar and butter. Mix in eggs and vanilla. Sift flour and then add to butter mixture, alternately adding buttermilk to create a creamy mixture. Add dates, nuts and orange slice candies. Be sure to remove the candies from the flour and do not use the extra flour in your cake. Coating the candies with flour keeps them from sinking to the bottom. Blend thoroughly. Spray inside of coffee cans with cooking spray. Fill each can 1/2 full with cake mixture. Place in oven and cook for 2 1/2 hours.

While the cakes are baking, place your orange juice and brown sugar in a pan. Bring to a boil and allow to cook until sugar is melted. Remove from heat and allow to cool. When cakes are done immediately pour icing over each one. Allow to cool and refrigerate. Place coffee can lids on cans for storage. When you are ready to serve, gently bump the sides of the cans to loosen the cake and allow to slide out.

  • Yields: Each cake yields approximately 10 round slices.
  • Preparation Time: 3 hours

Sweet Dough Orange Rolls

  • 2 cups milk, scalded
  • 1 1/3 cups sugar, divided
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 1/3 cup shortening
  • 2 eggs, well beated
  • 1 package yeast
  • 1/4 cup lukewarm water
  • 6 cups flour
  • 1/4 cup raisins
  • 1/4 cup grated orange rind
  • 1/4 cup melted margarine

Combine milk, 1/3 cup sugar, salt, and shortening; let cool to lukewarm. Stir eggs into milk mixture. Dissolve yeast in lukewarm water; stir in yeast mixture and enough flour to make a soft dough. Place dough in well-greased bowl; cover with cloth. Let stand in a warm place until doubled in bulk. Combine raisins, 1 cup sugar, and orange rind. Roll out dough on a floured surface into rectangle; brush with melted margarine. Sprinkle with orange mixture; roll up, starting at long side. Cut into slices; place in greased pan. Cover; let rise until doubled in bulk. Bake in preheated 375 degree oven for 25 minutes.

  • Yields: 12 rolls
  • Preparation Time: 45 minutes

Orange Blossom

  • 2-1/2 cups buttermilk
  • 2 cups frozen unsweetened peach slices
  • 3/4 cup frozen Florida orange juice concentrate
  • 2 tablespoons brown sugar
  • Florida orange slices and mint sprigs (optional)

In a blender, combine buttermilk, peaches, orange juice concentrate and sugar. Cover and blend until mixture is smooth. Pour into glasses. Garnish with orange slices and mint, if desired. Serve at once.

  • Yields: 4 servings
  • Preparation Time: 10 minutes