The Fruits of Winter — and a nice life…

As I skied down mountains of deep, packed powder, in one of the world’s most renowned ski resorts, I pondered (all day): What makes a nice life?

It certainly seems that I have a nice life. I do. Truth be told, however, we were literally renting someone’s spare bedroom in a nearby condo, not lodging in the chi-chi resorts that I suppose most of the folks around me were. No matter. I was in a gorgeous place with the love of my life without a care in the world.

So again, what makes a “nice” life? Is it the lifestyles we see flaunted in our faces every time we turn on the TV or glance at social media? I’ll admit, I’m susceptible to wishing for more. And yet, I know I have a nice life.

Citrus Salad with Candied Kumquats

A nice life is like a bowl of ice cream . . .

I propose that a “nice” life is like a bowl of ice cream: you start with the foundation — the bowl that contains the “stuff.” For me, it’s my absolute faith in God and the saving power of Christ. Whatever we worship — money & stuff, achievements, a higher power, physical beauty — becomes your foundation. Some foundations are a lot more stable than others, just sayin’.

The ice cream is the actual “stuff” of life — your work, family & friends, hobbies, and the things that fill your time and occupy your thoughts. None of this is necessarily good or bad (though I’m sure we could propose a few ideas that are).

And the sprinkles — ah, the sprinkles! Those sweet, colorful bits that are not required, but put smiles on our faces with the anticipation of it all. It’s the discovery of our passions and the ability to pursue them. The deep connection made with the people we love, coming in unexpected moments. Small flashes of what individually defines luxury — a fabulous cup of coffee, a beautiful image, a bit of softness as we wrap up in a blanket . . .

For me, those sprinkles come in all forms of deliciousness. This weekend in the middle of winter brought forth bright, tart, tasty fruits, which really wake up my palate. And because “we eat with our eyes,” the fact that these are neither meat nor beige was just what the doctor ordered. From the citrus salad that I made at home, to the French toast with crispy apple chips that I had at Hovey & Harrison in Edwards, Colorado, I absolutely wallowed in delightful flavors.

Winter Citrus Salad

I start with a base of citrus and go from there. Sometimes I pair it with avocado. Other times, I add some pomegranate seeds. Sometimes it just depends on what I find at the store — blood oranges? YES. Kumquats — Definitely. Really, it’s a free for all and you can have fun with it. But to get you started, here’s my latest:

Winter Citrus Salad

(courtesy of Fine Cooking magazine):

Candied Kumquats:

  • 1 pint of kumquats
  • 3/4 cup sugar

For the salad:

  • 1 tablespoon of kumquat syrup (from above)
  • 2 tsp rice vinegar
  • 1/2 tsp harissa
  • 1 1/2 tsp EVOO
  • 1/4 cup finely sliced celery
  • 2 clementines
  • 2 red or white grapefruit
  • 1 navel orange
  • 1 blood orange
  • 1 tablespoon coarsely chopped mint
  • 2 ounces goat cheese (I used peppered, but honey would also be nice)
  • 2 tablespoons toasted or candied nuts (I used sugared pecans, but toasted pistachios, almonds, walnuts, etc. are all great choices)
  • 2 1/2 tablespoons candied kumquats

Kumquats:

Slice the kumquats into nickel-thick rounds. In a small heavy saucepan, bring 3 cups of water to a boil. Add the kumquats and simmer for 1 minute. Drain the fruit and reserve; discard water.  In the same pot, add 3/4 cup water and 3/4 cup sugar. Boil until clear and sugar is dissolved. Return the kumquats to the pot (the syrup is now called “simple syrup”) and simmer for 10-12 minutes until the fruit is tender. Let cool. 

Salad:

Whisk the kumquat syrup, vinegar, harissa, and a pinch of salt together. Gradually whisk in the EVOO. 

Peel all of the citrus fruit (except the kumquats), removing the pith (white “skin” between the peel and the flesh) and the membranes. Cut the segments into bite-sized pieces. Add the celery & mint. Arrange on serving platter, then drizzle with harissa dressing. Garnish with goat cheese, nuts, and candied kumquats.

Apple Chips

So easy, it’s ridiculous —

Slice whatever apples you have on hand (ideally with a mandoline). You can core them, or not, but leave the peel on. You can add a bit of cinnamon and/or brown sugar, if you like. Line a baking sheet with parchment, and spread your apples in a single layer. Bake at 275 degrees for about an hour, until they are dehydrated. They will crisp up more after they cool. Store in an airtight container.

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