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Food: Oh My Darling, Clementines

November 11, 2010

It’s finally clementine season, and let me just say: it’s about time. Even though the first few shipments are usually a little too tart and watery, once you finally get a sweet little clementine your day is all but made.

Clems are the tiny romping puppy of the citrus world: always happy, always energetic (unless they are sleeping/out of season). Their size makes you want to learn how to juggle, just so you can have an excuse to throw them around. When you peel them your hands smell delicious for the rest of the day, and when you eat them you can’t help but smile.

In case you didn’t know, clementines – and oranges too, for that matter – are berries. (Makes sense when you think about it, huh?) Clems are seedless, one of their many bonus points over regular citrus, and only in season/readily available in November and December. Their short season makes them all the more desireable – clems aren’t stupid, they play hard to get.

Unlike their cousins the satsuma or the mandarin orange, you don’t find clementines listed as an ingredient in many seasonal recipes. Even after leafing through my extensive cookbook collection, the most I came up with was some infused olive oils and salads topped with clem segments. There are quite a few clementine torte/clementine cupcake recipes floating out there, and I spotted some notes on how to make a clementine- enhanced Negroni, but most of these seem like they’re trying too hard to do something fancy with what is really just a lovely, simple pleasure.

One exception: If I was more of a baker I’d work on Nigella Lawson’s recipe for Clementine Cake (adapted by Smitten Kitchen here), which includes only clementines, eggs, sugar, and almonds. But I’m not a baker, and I’m short on time these days, which is another reason why I like this fruit. No matter how busy I am, I always have a moment to peel and savor a clementine.

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