Wednesday, July 20, 2005

One Orange, Two Limes

Every time you make dinner, especially a dinner for friends, there's an underlying theme. You may not always be able to discern it; you may, in fact, not even realize that there is a theme to be discerned. But it is there, and now that I have disabused you of the notion that meals (unlike life) are meaningless, I expect that you'll look a little bit harder.

The theme for Monday's dinner can be found in the title of this entry. Many people will tell you that it's not a good idea to carry the same flavors all the way through a meal, but as it happened, I had something in each of the parts of the meal that had citrus fruits and/or juices in the above proportions. This may not sound like much of a theme to you, but if you can further imagine me walking around singing "One orange, two limes" to the tune of "No Woman, No Cry" as if I were Bob Marley (let us charitably call this a stretch; I did actually walk around singing that, but I do not sound much like Mr. Marley), then you will see that at the very least, I had a theme song. As I have recently catalogued, I used those proportions in the dessert. And, as it happens, one orange and two limes provided just the right amount of juice for the mole.

I alluded briefly to having set out some food for my guest and myself to nibble on prior to dinner. Neither of us had eaten much throughout the day on Monday. I had skipped lunch because I needed to get out of the office around 5, and he had been flying back from Chicago and then had to go to his office and hadn't had time to eat. I could have made something a bit more labor intensive for the hors d'oeuvres, but I had already made something fairly fancy for a Monday night dinner that was just going to be two friends sitting around and talking for a couple of hours, so I cut a couple of wedges of Brie off a small wheel and put them on a plate with some whole wheat crackers and a variety of olives of the sort that one need not be embarrassed to serve. (Sadly, the olive bar, which was all the rage in the area for a couple of years, seems to have largely gone the way of the proper use of apostrophes, but a couple of the local supermarkets still sell olives that look and taste like real olives in addition to those canned abominations that my mother always served on the relish tray at Thanksgiving.)

To accompany the nibbles, I made a pitcher of sangria. I will make sangria upon the flimsiest of excuses, and summer is certainly a good deal more substantial a reason than I require. And you really can't make decent sangria without (at least) one orange and two limes.

I don't know, of course, to what extent your early culinary history corresponds to my own, but if you were taken to the same sorts of restaurants in your youth that I was taken to, every so often, you went to a suburban Chinese restaurant that had a menu of essentially two pages. Verso, there were descriptions of individual dishes in fairly small print. Recto, there was something called a family style dinner or a group dinner or perhaps (though probably not) something more exotic. It was something my family never ordered, but if you have ever heard the expression "one from column A and one from column B," then you have heard a reference at least to one of those menus. The idea was that the more people you had at your table, the more dishes you ordered. If there were two of you, I believe, you got one from each column. Add another person, get another column A dish. Add yet another person, add a column B dish. And so on.

Sangria, reader, follows what google tells me is referred to as the Chinese menu principle. The more people you have, the more sangria you need, the more kinds of fruit you put in. When we have a party here, I get out the two-gallon punch bowl and fill it to the rim (more than once) with Sangria, and in that case, I put in lemons, limes, oranges, apples, cantaloupe, honeydew, strawberries, cherries, and pretty much anything else I see that looks good. When you're making enough sangria for two (half a gallon; people drink a lot of the stuff, and you'll want some left over), you can really get away with just two fruits. Since I also had the big clamshell box of ripe red cherries, I used some of them as well, but the main fruit additions were one orange and two limes.

Sangria for a (Very) Small Crowd

One orange
Two limes
A dozen cherries
6 cups red wine
1/2 cup white rum or vodka, optional

Slice the orange and the two limes. The orange slices should be relatively thick, and the lime slices should be as thin as possible. If you have a V-slicer, you can accomplish this by flipping the guide from the thick to the thin setting between slicing the orange and slicing the limes. Put the sliced citrus fruits into a pitcher. Remove the stems from the cherries. Cut the cherries in half with a paring knife. Remove the seeds if you think that matters. Add the cherries to the pitcher, then add the wine and the liquor if you are using it. Add a quarter cup of sugar, stir well, and refrigerate.

If you make this the day before, the sangria will pick up a good deal of bitterness from the citrus rind, and you will need more sugar to balance off the bitterness. Add enough sugar to make it taste good if you did that, and enjoy the complex flavor. Drop a cherry and a slice of each of the citrus fruits into a large glass, add ice, and then pour in the sangria. It should be nice and cold when you serve it.

If you dislike using a lot of sugar, then instead of marinating the fruit in the wine overnight, you can simply juice the citrus and mix the wine with the juice. It will still be very good, and no one will know since you're putting some fruit in the glass for a garnish, anyway. If you like to quaff this the way I do, then you may want to either omit the liquor or have it less cold so that the ice melts and waters it down a bit. If you do that, add some additional citrus juice so that it doesn't taste weak. You can go as far as mixing half wine with half orange-limeade (and/or lemonade, really) without losing the good flavor of the wine. I very rarely have more than a glass of wine at dinner, and I only serve this at home, so I just go ahead and drink as much as I like, which invariably amuses my friends, who are unaccustomed to seeing me even slightly inebriated. If you're making a bowlful for a party, you can make it a bit stronger since over time, the significant amount of ice that you've dumped in will melt so that the sangria will weaken along with the inhibitions of its drinkers. On the rare occasions where I don't have guests and feel like making a batch, though, I make it very weak and with a lot of juice, as I have never understood the allure of solitary intoxication. And, no, God doesn't count.

[Note: I have been experiencing some problems with the wireless modem on the computer that I use to upload pictures. Pictures will resume when I resolve the problems.]


Blogger David said...

Your blog is kind of like those exotic travel and adventure shows where you are fascinated but what you witness, yet you know deep in your heart that you will never attempt such daredevil feats on your own.

Praline Tuiles? Not in a million years.

2:27 PM  
Anonymous anapestic said...

As long as you have fun reading, I'm happy. Anyway, though you may never take up the skillet and whisk yourself, when you have the fabulous new millionaire boyfriend, you will have to be able to tell the cook what you want for dinner, so you can ask for the tuiles then.

7:12 AM  

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