I am standing at the kitchen sink washing dishes. A coffee maker is gurgling behind me, and to the right the onions and potatoes sizzle in the skillet on the stove. My 70s kitchen could have easily been duplicated from an Updike’s Rabbit novel, but all the smells that surround me scream comfort and warmth. The tree branches in front of my balcony sway in the rhythm with the wind that blows from the west, bringing along a hint of the ocean through the open door.
Yes, life is hectic and I still need at least five or six extra hours a day to accomplish everything. But even with the constant adrenaline rush I manage to take in all the beauty and serenity around me and acknowledge how grateful I am that my girls and I are finally settled in our own apartment. I still smile every time I unlock the door and glimpse a stairway leading up to the bedrooms, pinching myself just in case I were dreaming. Every day is like a present, unexpected, but eagerly awaited and greatly appreciated.
I want to finally anchor myself to one place even though I still feel like a tourist who has decided to make this Southern California vacation last longer, and every Saturday chants “one more week, one more week.” I walk around with my mouth open, greedily soaking up every detail of beauty that surrounds me. I crane my neck through the car window, hoping to see the mountains covered with snow in the distance. I eagerly await the green light on the way to our local Persian store just to see the undulating hills of the valley hugging the horizon while the car plummets down the steep, curvy road.
I still get excited when I see a plump palm tree in a neighbor’s yard. I point and clap every time I spy a citrus tree, and sometimes even plan the elaborate nightly raids on the unsuspecting fruit hanging off the easily reached branches in the street that leads to my daughter’s school. I feel as if I were here on borrowed time, and any minute a cold hand will snatch me and whisk me away back to Ohio. And just in case I wake up freezing in some driveway west of Cleveland, I would like to have my pockets stuffed with tangerines, lemons, and oranges to keep me warm.
A few days ago the mailman delivered a box full of Ojai pixie tangerines from Melissa’s Produce to my door. As I brought them up to my face and inhaled their fresh, citrus smell, I could not stop smiling. I do not have to sneak through the neighborhood and make the chihuahuas restless while I try to pick someone else’s fruit. I am not going anywhere and I do not have to arm myself with California sunshine to battle the invisible forces trying to plunge me into the land of eternal snow. I loved Cleveland, but right now I am starting to make firmer and more self-confident steps on the California sand.
I felt as if I were living a California dream as the sweet, sticky liquid ran down my fingers and the smell of fresh citrus enveloped me. It made me tremendously happy to be alive right now, in this beautiful part of the world that I can finally call home.
Ojai pixie tangerines are incredibly sweet and fragrant. Their season is short and can be easily missed. We ate most of the loot, but several ended up in this cake which pretty much describes my life right now: fulfilling, satisfying, light, fresh, and at times surprising (as the caramel hardened on top of the tangerines, it added a delightful, albeit unexpected crunch).
- 6 Ojai pixie tangerines (zested, peeled and separated into segments; reserve 1 tsp of zest for the recipe, save the rest in freezer)
- 8 tbsp unsalted butter, at room temperature
- 3/4 cup sugar
- 2 large eggs (at room temperature)
- 1/4 tsp kosher salt
- 1 cup all-purpose flour
- 1 tsp baking powder
- Caramel Sauce:
- 1 cup sugar
- 1/3 cup water
- 2/3 cup Ojai pixie tangerine juice (about 4 tangerines)
- Preheat the oven to 350°F.
- Butter and flour a 9 inch cake pan.
- Combine the butter and sugar and mix on medium speed until fluffy using an electric mixer.
- While the mixer is running, add eggs one at a time.
- Add the grated orange zest.
- In a bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, and salt.
- Add the flour mixture to the batter and mix until it is incorporated.
- Pour the batter into the pan.
- Bake the cake for 45 to 55 minutes, until the cake is an even golden brown and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.
- Let the cake cool in the pan on a wire rack.
- Take the cake out of the pan.
- Arrange the orange slices in one layer on top of the cake.
- Caramel Orange Sauce:
- Combine sugar, water, and tangerine juice in a heavy pan.
- Heat on moderate-high temperature until sugar is melted.
- Turn the heat down to low and cook until the color turns light amber, stirring occasionally.
- Pour the caramel on top of the cake and tangerine slices.
- Let it cool and serve.
Thanks Melissa’s Produce for the gift of citrusy sunshine.