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Recipes for Realtors: Grapefruit carpaccio (and french toast)

Choose three each, pink and yellow flesh medium-size grapefruit.

Carefully peel to get all the white pith off. Horizontally slice each grapefruit into about 3/8″ equal slices.

Arrange the fruit overlapping slices of each colour in three rows, on a large rectangular black platter if you have one; otherwise a white one will do. The black platter makes such a contrasting colour mix.

Between the rows, place rows of whole, pan-fried medium-large sea scallops, seared in unsalted butter with a pinch of thyme. Grind fresh peppercorns overtop and sprinkle the whole platter with sea salt.

Sprinkle with minced candied citrus rinds from your pantry sugar jar (perhaps whiz quickly in your one-cup kitchen machine but be careful; you don’t want to pulverize the candied rinds), then toss over top homemade candied walnuts.

When ready to serve, drizzle a little cooled grapefruit beurre blanc over each row. Make it by sautéing a small minced shallot in 1/4 cup of unsalted butter, heated with 1/4 cup of white wine vinegar (I use Winzertanz), 1/4 cup of fresh grapefruit juice (either colour) and let heat through but not boil.

Gradually add a cup of half-and-half cream and a tablespoon of sugar and gently stir to combine. One by one, add tablespoon-size cubes of very cold unsalted butter. The sauce will begin to thicken as the cold butter gets incorporated. Be very careful to monitor the heat. Lift the pot if necessary, so as not to burn the cream. Keep very hot but not boiling.

Remove the saucepan from the heat and let it come to room temperature. When ready to serve, add a half cup of pomergranite seeds.

Back to the citrus platter. Sprinkle thin shavings of Parmesan cheese over the rows of grapefruit slices. When ready to serve, drizzle the scallops with the grapefruit beurre blanc sauce.

Around the platter outside edges, dot with my very special cubes of Christmas fruitcake leftovers croutons (see below). Some wrapped in thin crispy bacon strips, others not.

If you are preparing for guests or as part of a buffet table, and happen to have a seasonal potted rosemary tree, position it near the citrus platter, and maybe crush just a tiny bit of the fresh rosemary over the scallops. Fresh tarragon will do if you don’t have rosemary. Just use a tiny bit because either can overpower.

You might also choose to decorate the platter before serving, using small thin slices of very fresh prosciutto twisted to make small roses.

Alternate: You could make the same salad but use mixed citrus: sweet oranges, blood oranges, fresh lemons and limes, overlapping each mixed colours in rows as you would making beef carpaccio. The spaces in between the citrus rows could be filled with pan-seared medium-size shrimp cooked with shells on in garlic butter. It’s easy for guests to take the shrimp by the tail and pop off the shells.

Have a pretty little designated trash dish nearby to catch the shells. Or you could shell the shrimp after they are cooked and roll them in roasted coconut flakes for another amazing treat.

Serve a large bowl of shredded cold iceberg lettuce with tongs to let people help themselves.

Christmas fruitcake croutons – yes, really!

Have you ever thought of cutting thick slices of fruitcake into cubes and roasting them in sizzling sweet homemade oven-roasted garlic purée butter? Sprinkle with salt and pepper while still hot.

You could use either light or dark fruitcake.

Use as a topper for your french onion soup – English style, or toss with your favourite mesclun salad, drizzled with 1:3 red wine vinegar and best quality extra virgin olive oil.

Wickedly wonderful. Really!

You could even make, roasted in unsalted butter, pound cake croutons (or use chocolate pound cake) to serve with your favourite fruit salad or with your tomato carpaccio (poke a caper in each crouton when sprinkling over the tomatoes). Spritz with cognac.

Over the top: Split slices of barely cooked but crispy fatty bacon strips and wrap each individual crouton with the thin bacon strips. Or wrap the pound cake croutons in paper paper-thin strips of very fresh crispy cucumber.

You could put roasted croutons on a party-size skewer and top any salad with a couple of skewers. Or maybe make a pocket of croutons in a lettuce-leaf cup.

And while we’re on the subject of fruitcake: what to do with all those office gifts… how many fruitcakes will you get this year? Don’t toss them or even re-gift them… there are many ways to use them.

Here are a couple of ideas: Make your favourite bread pudding, or even french toast, using the leftover Christmas cakes. You could even make a gooey cheese fondue, and yes, dip the fruitcake croutons. It’s easy and perhaps a conversation starter as well.

Fruitcake keeps for ages, but you could always freeze the leftover fruitcake, cubed. Slice it or cube it first. Package in small bags so you can unfreeze overnight in the fridge, and then do your leftover “Christmas fruitcake thing.”

Speaking of french toast

Date bread (old newspaper article 1970’s)

1 cup dates, cut fine

1 cup boiling water

1 teaspoon salt

4 tablespoons sweet butter

1 cup brown sugar

1 cup walnuts, cut fine

1 beaten whole egg

1 teaspoon baking soda

1 cup flour (really full)

Preheat oven to 375 F.

Cover the dates with boiling water and put them aside until they are soft. About 10 minutes should do it. Stir in the salt and the sweet butter along with the brown sugar, while the dates and liquid are still warm, but not hot. Add the walnuts, then the egg. Put the soda in with the flour and give a little stir to combine and add to batter.

Stir only until combined. I recommend that you do this by hand rather than by machine. It really doesn’t take long.

Bake in a well-greased pan about 40 minutes or until a straw or toothpick inserted in centre comes out clean. You will need a medium-small pan. Or bake in a metal coffee tin. Fill the tins only a little more than half full; the batter will expand as it cooks. I put a thin, rimmed cookie sheet under the tins. Or a tinfoil protector sheet.

Alternate: Add to the dates, at the beginning of the recipe, a quarter cup of figgy marinating jus. Stir in a quarter cup of chopped, marinated, macerated figs from your Asbach Uralt figgy jar.

Date nut loaf french toast

Make french toast using thick slices of homemade date nut loaf. Round slices are a nice presentation if you baked your loaf in a metal coffee tin.

Squeeze on a glaze, from a forcing bag: icing sugar mixed with a little maple syrup and minced candied orange peel from your sugar jar in your pantry.

Drizzle with a mix of maple syrup and jus from your Asbach Uralt cognac black mission figs marinating jar, 1:1 when ready to serve, while the toast is still warm.

And likely an unheard-of mix: For another unusual taste treat, toast this date bread in quite thin slices, and use to make crostini for walk-about hors d’ouvres. Just perfect. Butter, and top with a medium thick slice of Brie or Camembert cheese. And then add a very thin slice of ruffled prosciutto ham. Just before serving add a small handful of my mesclun salad greens to each piece.

The mixed flavours will tempt you to eat them all before others can indulge.

Boston brown bread

Sliced, buttered, and served with love, Boston brown bread won’t stay around long enough to have time to freeze it, or even wrap it up to put away for long.

But it can be frozen; right in the coffee can that you bake it in. Just pop on the plastic coffee cover and stick the can in the freezer.

Preheat oven to 350 F. Butter two coffee cans (1 lb. size).

Soak 1½ cup of raisins in 1 cup of boiling water and ½ cup of rum.

In a mixing bowl, cream 1 tablespoon of butter and 1 cup of sugar.

Stir in 1 beaten egg. Add to this, all at once, 2¾ cups of flour, ½ teaspoon of salt, 2 teaspoons of baking soda and 1 cup of nuts; the raisins and their liquid.

Stir until well mixed and bake for one hour at 350 F in greased coffee cans. Only fill cans a little more than halfway with the batter. The cans will fill up as the batter bakes.

Remove from the oven and let stand for a few minutes. The bread will shrink slightly, allowing you to invert the cans so the bread will fall out.

I usually double this recipe, making four tins at once, cutting down not only on time spent in the kitchen, but on energy consumption as well. If you are at home during the day, try to have your baking finished prior to 4 p.m. or, if baking in the evening, do it after 7 p.m.

Between the hours mentioned, here in (our area), as well as elsewhere, there is a tremendous increase in the amount of energy being used.

You may find your oven temperature will fluctuate more often during these peak energy periods, thus affecting the baking process.

You could add a half cup of paper-thin skinned, sliced almonds, and when you toast the Boston brown bread for crostini, the almonds get beautifully crunchy, making your toasted thin slices almost like a cracker texture.

Note: Some pharmaceuticals do not interact well with certain foods, grapefruits in particular. If you enjoy grapefruit and might enjoy this recipe and are taking any medications, prescribed or otherwise, give a call to any pharmacist who will advise if grapefruit is safe for you to enjoy.

© “From Lady Ralston’s Kitchen: A Canadian Contessa Cooks” | Turning everyday meal making into a Gourmet Experience