Bearing Fruit

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I know winter has arrived when crates of clementines appear in the market. They’ve been arriving from Spain, Morocco and California for the past few weeks.

I always associate the holiday season with clementines, even though they’ll be around until spring. Prices have never been lower. I recently purchased a 5-pound box of these sweet fruits for $3.99 in the Italian Market.

A clementine is a cross between a tangerine and a Seville orange. They peel and section easily and contain few or no seeds. Their size makes them perfect for the lunchbox.

I recently came across a recipe for a clementine cake. You could bake a yellow cake from scratch or from a mix, but I think using a store-bought angel food cake or pound cake would make for a quick dessert.

The ruby red grapefruits from sunny Florida are in high season. They usually run four or five for a dollar. Although a half-grapefruit is a tasty prelude to breakfast, grapefruit sections are sometimes used in winter salads. Or, if you have an ice-cream machine, you can whip up grapefruit sorbet.

The spinach salad is a retro appetizer that was all the rage in the late 1970s. It usually was made with a hot bacon dressing. Many restaurants served it and sometimes the salad included sections of canned mandarin oranges. If the oranges were used, the bacon dressing took on a certain sweetness, which chefs would try to cut with slices of red onion rings. I prefer grapefruit with the spinach and the inclusion of avocado slices. You will find the contrast of tastes and textures delicious.

My husband Edward likes to make a citrus salad with an assortment of oranges and grapefruit. Navels, tangelos, clementines, mineolas and grapefruit sections are placed in a pretty bowl, sometimes tossed with Cointreau. A serving of this salad, along with a plate of butter or sugar cookies, is a dessert fit for company.

Like the array of apples this autumn and winter, the pears have been downright perfect. I haven’t had a bad one yet. My favorite is the green or red Anjou because its cello-shape makes it "the" pear for poaching, slicing or eating out of hand. You can poach pears in a simple syrup made with sugar and water, or in red wine.

Here are recipes to make delicious use of winter fruits.

Clementine Cake

Ingredients:

1 angel food cake, yellow cake or pound cake
2 pounds clementines, peeled and sectioned; remove any seeds
Whipped cream
Slivered almonds

Directions:

Split the cake into three layers. Spread whipped cream on the first layer and make a circle with clementines. Place on layer on top and repeat. Place the top layer on top of the second layer. Spread whipped cream on the top layer and add more clementines. Pat slivered almonds all around the edge of the cake.

Serves six to eight.

Grapefruit, Avocado and Spinach Salad

Ingredients:

1 (12-ounce) bag pre-washed baby spinach leaves
2 large ruby red grapefruits
2 ripe avocados
Poppy seed vinaigrette (recipe follows)

Directions:

Peel the grapefruit and remove the seeds and white pith. Cut the avocados in half, peel them and slice relatively thin.

Place the spinach in a large bowl. Add grapefruit and avocado slices. Toss gently to blend. Toss with poppy seed vinaigrette.

Serves four.

Poppy Seed Vinaigrette

Ingredients:

1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
Juice of 1/2 Meyer lemon
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
1 teaspoon poppy seeds

Directions:

Place all the ingredients together in a small bowl. Whisk thoroughly and pour over the spinach salad.

Note from Phyllis: Meyer lemons are a cross between oranges and lemons. They contain less acid, have thin skins and are filled with juice. Last year they cost about 89 cents each. I recently bought four for a dollar at Iovine Produce in the Reading Terminal Market. Use Meyer lemons in any recipe that calls for lemon juice.

Pears Poached in Red Wine

Ingredients:

6 Anjou pears
1 cup sugar
2 cups fruity red wine such as Beaujolais
1 cinnamon stick

Directions:

Peel the pears with a vegetable peeler. Cut a small slice off the bottom of each pear so they can stand upright.

Place the sugar and wine in a saucepan large enough to hold the pears. Bring the mixture to a boil and cook for about five minutes.

Place the pears into the saucepan, return to a boil and lower the heat to a simmer. Poach the pears, turning them over gently using tongs, to coat them evenly with the wine mixture. Simmer for about 15 minutes.

When the pears are tender, remove them from the syrup with a slotted spoon. Place them on a large plate and refrigerate for one hour. Reserve the syrup in the saucepan.

After the pears have chilled, boil the syrup until it thickens slightly. Let cool to room temperature.

When ready to serve, place pears on individual dessert plates. Spoon some syrup over them and serve.

Serves six.

Poached Pears with Hot Fudge Sauce

Ingredients:

6 Anjou pears
1 cup sugar
1 quart of water
Vanilla ice cream
Whipped cream
1 jar top-quality hot fudge sauce

Directions:

Peel and core the pears. Cut off a small slice on the bottom of each pear so they can stand upright.

Place the sugar and water in a saucepan large enough to hold the pears. Bring the mixture to a boil, add the pears, reduce the heat and simmer uncovered for about 10 minutes or until the pears are tender. Using tongs, turn the pears from time to time to ensure even poaching.

Remove the saucepan from the heat. Allow the pears to cool at room temperature. Place in the refrigerator until serving time.

When ready to serve, heat hot fudge sauce in the microwave for two to four minutes. Test to see if sauce is hot enough. You can also place the hot fudge sauce in a small saucepan and simmer until hot and bubbly. Place pears into individual serving bowls. Pour hot fudge sauce over each pear and pipe whipped cream around the pears.

Serves six.