Citrus combo is alluring dessert


A few weeks ago, a friend and I co-hosted a soup party. The fete was a huge success. (Guests left late saying they couldn't remember having had a better time.) My co-chef was responsible for the soup and green salad, and we prepared the appetizers together. Desserts, however, were my domain, and I went all out serving a trio of confections. I baked a chocolate spice cake to offer with a warm chocolate sauce, and stopped by a well-known bakery to purchase some of its celebrated Florentine bars (shortbread baked with caramel, almonds and currants).

As an afterthought, I included an orange and grapefruit compote sprinkled with pistachios and accompanied by a cold citrus sabayon (a custard sauce enriched with cream). I envisioned the burst of color the oranges and pink grapefruit slices would provide. (I used navel and blood oranges, and ruby red grapefruit.) I expected the rich cake and bars to be swept away immediately, but to my surprise, the compote disappeared first. Guests came back for seconds, even thirds, exclaiming that the bright refreshing flavors of this citrus combo were alluring after a filling meal.

I made the compote in advance. A day ahead I assembled the sauce -- a cooked custard flavored with orange liqueur and enriched with whipped cream. Several hours before supper, I used a sharp knife to peel away the skins and the white piths from the fruits, then sliced and arranged them on a platter. I popped the fruit in the fridge to chill it a bit. At serving time, I sprinkled it with pistachios and added mint. My dessert was ready and waiting and it turned out to be the American idol of our dessert table.

Orange and Pink Grapefruit Compote with Pistachios

Serves 6

6 oranges, preferably 3 navel and 3 blood oranges (see Note)

4 large egg yolks

1 1/3 cups heavy or whipping cream, divided

1/4 cup sugar, plus extra for sprinkling on the fruit

1/4 cup orange-flavored liqueur; such as Cointreau Ice

1 1/2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice

1 pink grapefruit, preferably a ruby red one

2 tablespoons chopped unsalted pistachios

fresh mint springs for garnish

Zest one of the navel oranges to yield 2 teaspoons zest. Set zest aside. In top of a double boiler (or in a flame-proof bowl) set over but not touching simmering water, whisk together egg yolks, 2/3 cup cream, sugar and orange liqueur. Whisk constantly until mixture has thickened and coats the back of a spoon, about 5 minutes.

Set pan containing egg mixture over a bowl of ice to cool to room temperature. When cool, whisk in lemon juice and reserved 2 teaspoons orange zest. Lightly whip remaining 2/3 cup cream until soft peaks form, then fold it into cooled egg mixture in three additions. Transfer this sauce to a glass or nonreactive serving bowl. (Sauce can be prepared 1 day ahead; cover and refrigerate.)

With a sharp knife (preferably a chef's knife), cut a thick slice from each end of an orange. Stand the orange upright on a cutting board and, starting at the top, slice downward along the contour of the fruit, cutting away all of the skin and all of the white pith beneath. Repeat with other oranges and with the grapefruit. Slice peeled oranges and grapefruit horizontally into thin rounds about 1/4 -inch thick or slightly thicker. Slice grapefruit rounds in half, but leave orange rounds whole. Remove and discard any seeds. Slightly overlap alternating slices of orange and grapefruit on a serving platter.

You can also serve the fruit in individual bowls. To do so, divide sliced fruit evenly among six dessert bowls. (Fruit can be prepared 4 hours ahead; cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate.) To serve, sprinkle pistachios over fruit and garnish with mint. Serve sauce on the side.

Note: Blood oranges are sweet and tart in taste with orange skins, which are often streaked with brushes of red. The flesh is a rich deep red, sometimes almost wine-hued. The season is from late fall and can extend into May. If unavailable, use all navel oranges. After peeling a blood orange, you may find that when it is sliced, the rounds separate into segments. Don't worry. The segments will work fine in this compote.

Per serving: 343 calories, 5 grams protein, 24 grams fat, 13 grams saturated fat, 30 grams carbohydrates, 4 grams fiber, 209 milligrams cholesterol, 26 milligrams sodium.

Analysis provided by registered dietitian Jodie Shield.

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