Not far from Siracusa, Sicily, there is a little orange grove of a village called Lentini. It is the only Greek settlement on the island that is not on the coast, and it is my namesake.
Its a very small little place, but it is where my grandfathers’ family is from and, in my day to day life, it is the place from which I draw the most heritage – (for obvious reasons to include explaining my name,) it seems that my love of cooking stemmed from the women of my family, way back when. Our family grew oranges, and still does, as does nearly everyone there. And, as I peruse the farmer’s markets here in California, being pulled to the mere mountains of oranges/yellows/reds, swooned by the little green stems and leaves perched on top of these perfect orbs, and carrying home bags and bags full of citrus fruits, I tell myself that it must be my Sicilian heritage that is gobbling up the citrus stockpiles in East Bay.
Moro blood oranges, tangerines, tangelos, cara caras, kumquats and meyer lemons – I love the exotics. Blood oranges are my favorites – their garnet flesh and floral flavors are unmistakable and completely delightful, and I have been enjoying them by the twos and threes for lunch, stirring their juice into dressings, their segments into salads with marcona almonds and green olives, and baking with them as well. They are an excellent recovery snack for my training runs, and an easy, bright, light way to infuse flavor into our meals without dressings and fat.
But fat is never something that my Sicilian great-grandmother would have worried about, no. I imagine (to myself) that this recipe that might have existed in her repertoire, and that sweet orange blossom scents filled the air as she creamed butter, sugar and the nectar of the orchards out her door.
March has been a month to return to roots; as reality slapped my family in the face with a bit of unfortunate news about the health of my father and grandmother, the whole family seemed to take pause, weighing the items in their lives according to importance, and re-invigorate our sense of family from across miles. During this time, I have been driven to the kitchen, but with more ingredient casualties than usual – too many times has butter been the victim of a “deep thoughts” moment.
And so, taking pause, I return to the roots of my cooking knowledge – take it slow, do what you know, and always with your own twist. And this is where kitchen meditation was found.
This absolutely delicious cake won over the heart of the non-orange eater in my house (husband) and was a very welcome treat -an absolute splurge really – that we were happy to eat with ice cream, mascarpone or coffee at breakfast, nibble-appropriate times during the day, and for dessert of course.
You could replace the blood orange curd with lemon, lilikoi, or any other curd you choose. Follow your roots, bake with love, and always from the core. 🙂 This is one recipe I will bake with care for springs to come as an example of what we can do when we carry who we are, where we come from with our daring as we go.