fresh mozzarella winter orzo salad with roasted grapefruit and tangerine

I feel the passing of each season by the produce currently in stock. The fruit bowl has been overflowing with juicy oranges, grapefruits, tangerines and clementines. Family has been dropping off freshly-picked-from-the-tree lemons, and I'm relishing each passing winter day. 

When it comes to fruits in season, I love nothing more than to simply eat them raw. They’re at their peak, dripping with juices, and filled with perfect deliciousness; but roasting does come second best. The juices caramelize, the edges brown, and somehow the flavors transform into something deep and magical and positively addicting. These roasted grapefruit and tangerine are nothing short of that. You can use them on yogurt, on your a.m. toast, and even in this warm orzo salad. And of course coupled with fresh mozzarella, it makes for a worthwhile salad.

This salad is infinitely versatile, with a simple dressing that can accommodate any topping. Add nuts, different vegetables, or even a soft-boiled egg. But you must keep the fresh mozzarella, it adds a lightness and freshness that makes everything tasty and perfect.

Juices + Smoothies / Health + Detox

I've been on quite a health quick these past few weeks. I'm not a resolutions-type of girl, and I don't quite hooray at the turn of the Gregorian calendar, but this health resurgence happened conveniently around the time many people resolve similar endeavors. I love eating healthy, and I as far as I can remember I'd crave succulent fruit as snack. Unfortunately I'd fall for decadent chocolate bars just as much. So, like many, I slowly nurtured a pattern of healthy eating along with convenient, processed food eating. I'd alternate between a phase of green-filled salads and one of sugar-filled cereal bowls for three meals a day. 

Ultimately nothing can compare, I just feel so good when I eat healthfully, and as a fringe benefit I love my closet so much more. The lethargy dissipates; I smile brightly even at 6am. The cravings stop, the sugar rush disappears, and instead of staring at a cupcake longingly, I almost get repulsed when I imagine the tooth-achingly-sweet cake and the subsequent bloating. Key word here is almost. Almost. Somehow some confections make it back into my repertoire eventually but instead of total annihilation, I'm working on being more mindful. I'm into the 80/20 rule, where 80% is clean eating and 20% is a party.

Many of you might be curious what "diet" I'm on. With so many eating lifestyle in vogue there are many options to choose from: vegan, vegetarian, Paleo, gluten free, herbalife, etc. I don't really subscribe to any one, but rather over the years I've learned what works for me and my body. A few years ago, I did the Clean detox here, and I loved it. It was approachable and I completed it successfully. Since then I'm more aware of the messages my body is sending me and I know what I need to avoid in order to feel my best.

One thing that always works is juicing. I totally fell in love with juicing. After I drink a juice filled with vegetables I literally feel my skin beaming. It's the best, most efficient and natural way to get a boost of micronutrients. I've made so many variations, and some I've shared on instagram. There's one juice I made that stood out. I combined some beets, carrots, celery, pear, and ginger. I then decided to turn that juice into a smoothie, so I blended it with spinach, almonds, and frozen pineapple. It turned out interesting. It tasted, you know, healthy. The smoothie addition thickened the consistency of the beet juice, and as much as I love smoothies, it wasn't my favorite fusion. I did it mainly because my smoothies usually contain more fruit than vegetables and I wanted to balance it out with the juice. It was an interesting experiment nonetheless.

I still have a few more juicing combinations I want to try. My brother-in-law once told me about a carrot, ginger, and cayenne pepper shot he had. I imagine it's lethal, and an efficient boost instead of a caffeine shot, not that I'd drink coffee. Anyhow, come to LA, you'll find many to converse on juicing with. For now, here are some of the things I've concocted.

celery root and red lentil soup

It took a while for the chill to reach LA, but ever since it has it's been at full force. The knitted sweaters are unboxed, the jackets are hung close, and the sniffles have begun. It's the perfect time for soup. There are little things as comforting as wrapping your hands around a steaming bowl of soup. The smell and warmth are as soothing as the contents of the bowl, a welcomed respite at the end of the day. I've made many kinds of soups thus far: french lentil soup, bean soup, and butternut squash soup. I also tried this celery root and red lentil soup. I actually first made this a while ago, when I first received the Bountiful cookbook by Todd Porter and Diane Cu. This cookbook is a visual masterpiece, beautiful in it's photography and design. I love the way it feels like a cross between a cookbook and a coffee table book. But what I love best is the focus on produce. True to its name, the book abounds with recipes using fresh fruits and vegetables like tangerines, kumquats, tomatoes, zucchini and squash. The chapters are even divided by types of produce from citrus to squash to root and cruciferous vegetables. You almost feel like you're picking and exploring the authors' garden right along as they cook with their bounty.
Over the past year that I've had this book, I've turned to it many times, sometimes for inspiration, sometimes for specific recipes. I have yet to try the yuzu kosho, if I can ever find a yuzu that is. It's a japanese citrus fruit similar to a lemon that gets combined with chile peppers and salt, a very attractive combination since I love spicy foods so much. I also want to try the pizza with rosemary potatoes, as well as the strawberry scones and tangerine creme brulee. There is also the sweet onion crack dip which apparently is quite the indulgence.
But let's get back to this soup. It has the perfect texture and flavor from the celery root, and it comes together so simply and quickly. The red lentils cook fast so you can be with your soup in hand in no time. The ingredient list is short, and yet the natural flavors shine through. That's the beauty here, the recipe relies on a short list of ingredients to create something remarkable. And that's the beauty of Bountiful, it perfectly highlights fresh fruits and vegetables. Now if only I could gain access to their garden.

Fried Oreos (Sandwich Cookies)

This past chanukah was the first year I was so fry-happy. I dislike frying for many reasons, namely the smell, the mess, the monitoring, and health reasons. But this year I pushed myself to fry and even begain looking for culprits. There's a segula (a good omen) related to frying and the good blessings it brings during Chanukah. I was convinced. I made the ubiquitous latkes and sfganiyot (specifically sfenj- a Moroccan variety sourced from my grandmother.) I fried some cheesy jalapeno poppers (here), I turned fries into poutine (sharing soon), and then I picked on the humble sandwich cookie and fried it, too.
I was amazed at how quickly this recipe came together. I made it during dinner while guests were lingering around the table after having latkes and other highly caloric foods, the kind that befits a true celebration. All it takes is a whisk of the batter, hot oil, dropping coated oreos and watching them turn into intoxicatingly sweet puffy clouds of yuminess.

I had first heard of fried oreos on a short summer trip to San Fran. The lady on the red tour bus was talking about how this small stand in Pier 39 makes the "best fried oreos--ever." My inital reaction was slight repulsion at a fried cookie, but I was intrigued nonetheless. Fast forward to my oil-filled Chanukah, and I knew that if ever I was to attempt it, it would be now. So I tried it and I was surprised at how much I loved it. It very much reminds me of a doughnut hole, in taste and texture. The cookie melts in the middle and the dough puffs up to create a comfortable cushion around the center. This is a perfect alternative to yeasted doughnuts, since it comes together effortlessly, yet tastes delicious, albeit toothachingly sweet.
Yes, I should have shared this during chanukah, but go ahead and use up the last drops of your frying oil on this recipe, it's worth it.

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