52 Foods Week Two: Oranges

Story time: Every summer growing up, our family would pile into an often comically overstuffed car and drive 5 hours North of the Bay Area for Feather River Camp. The final 45 minutes of the drive were awesome: A tight, winding road cut into the sides of the Sierra Nevada mountains with multiple bridges that seemed to soar over the rocky river below. The four hours before this were pretty dull. One of my favorite diversions during the interminable drive was passing the many orchards. I loved to watch the perfect grids of fruit trees converge into straight lines then scatter back into a wall of leaves as we passed them at 60 MPH. It’s an effect that can still distract me on long drives.

I wouldn’t be surprised if one of the orchards I marveled at as a child belonged to Sparks Ranch, in Winters, from whom I recently acquired 10 pounds of oranges.


I love oranges, and especially fresh squeezed orange juice. It’s one of the few citrus drinks I enjoy. Similarly, about the only cocktail I’ll order that’s made with citrus is the Blood and Sand, a classic cocktail made with scotch, sweet vermouth, orange juice and cherry brandy. Most recipes call for equal parts of all the ingredients, but I prefer mine heavier on the scotch and lighter on the cherry brandy

The Blood and Sand is great, but I wanted to come up with something new, so I set to work tossing 3/4 ounces of orange juice into a cocktail shaker with a vast conspiracy of ingredients before arriving at this lovely thing. Since one of my favorite things about ordering a Blood and Sand is the way it conjures Camus’ L’Étranger, and since it contains the French apéritif Lillet, and since this cocktail is basically a Blood and Sand with a couple of ingredients out of place I’m calling it L’Étranger. See how I did that?


1.5 oz. London Dry Gin
3/4 oz. Lillet Blanc
3/4 oz. Fresh Orange Juice
1 tsp. Cherry Heering

Shake all ingredients with ice and strain into a cocktail glass.

L'Étranger Cocktail

52 Foods Week One: Beets

I went to the Farmers’ Market yesterday to find a candidate for the first week of Fifty Two Foods. Being winter and a Wednesday, the market did not have a lot of vendors with fresh produce. After a quick survey, I settled on beets for this week.

I bought one bunch of organic beets from Fiddler’s Green Farm out of Brooks, CA.

A Bunch of Beets

I was asked to bring a salad to some friends’ home for a dinner, so I also grabbed some organic salad greens.

My plan was to cook the beets, and toss them in the salad with some goat cheese. I really like roasted beets, but sometimes I find the denseness of their flavor and the sweetness a bit overwhelming. I wanted to do something that would cut the richness a bit, and decided to salt roast them, figuring that the salt would balance the sweetness.

After washing the beets and slicing the ends off them. I poured a little pillow of kosher salt onto foil squares. I positioned each beet on the salt, then pulled the foil edges up to make a sort of sack. Then I poured more salt in each sack to cover about 3/4 of the beet.

Cover it Up

I finished wrapping the beets in the foil, and shook each one upside down a bit to distribute the salt. They sounded like little maracas.

I baked the beets for 35 minutes at 350ºF. Upon removing them from the oven, I unwrapped the top of the foil to let them cool a bit. The salt absorbed the beet juice, and had formed a sort of crust that broke away when the foil was opened.

Opening the Foil

Once the beets were cool enough to handle, I peeled them and sliced them for the salad. They tasted lightly salted with some of the sweetness cut, just like I had hoped. I finished the salad with a some crumbled goat cheese and a dijon-balsamic vinaigrette.

Salad is Served

You can view more photos here.