Crispy Citrus Toasts

Maybe it’s because there have been a marathon of gray days, or maybe it’s because I’m married to a Floridian, but this year I cannot get enough of citrus season – the orange and lemon varieties just seem sweeter and tastier than ever!   Actually what I think it might be is that citrus season marks the turning of a corner after the long months following the last of the sweet summer fruit – it’s exciting to see season-dependent choices again, especially such colorful ones.  Citrus season certainly makes my sticking-to-bright-flavors resolution a no-brainer!

Since the color and shape is kind of fun, I got to thinking that citrus fruit would make a great hors’ devours.  In fact we used citrus in some a few years ago, and until making the Meyer Lemon Chicken last night, I’d forgotten!  These bite-sized toasts are colorful and festive, and the strong flavor provided by the citrus is tempered by slices of mozzarella.  Plus, the mild cheese and crunchy bread make for great textural dimension.   Best of all is that while they’re fun serve and eat, they aren’t the Enemy of the Waistline that many toasts can be.  We’re getting our main flavors from oranges and lemons after all!

Servings: 3-4, scalable

Time: 30 minutes

Hands-On Time: 30 minutes

Kitchen Equipment: Paper Towels, Tongs, Non-Stick Frying Pan, Very Sharp Knife, Parchment Paper, Cookie Sheet

Ingredients: 

– 1-2 Blood Oranges (or more as needed)

– 1 Meyer Lemon (or more as needed)

– 1/8 Cup Confectioner’s Sugar

– 4 Tbsps Olive Oil, Divided

– 1 Small – Medium Sized Mozzarella Ball (or more as needed)

– 1 Fresh Baguette

– Handful of Basil, small leaves or coarsely chopped

Steps: 

– Slice the fruit crosswise into thin rounds, thick enough to handle but no more.  Don’t worry if they aren’t perfect!  (They will soon be fried in olive oil which will make them look somewhat – quite imperfect.)

– Sprinkle the Confectioner’s Sugar evenly over a large plate.

– Warm up one Tbsp of the olive oil in the non-stick pan over low heat.

– Set two paper towels on a plate next to the frying pan.

– Then, working in batches, first set the citrus rounds in the sugar and flip to lightly coat.  If there are large clumps, gently shake off.

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– Continue with the sugared pieces you have (vs coating all slices and then moving on) right into the frying pan.  Using the tongs, set each piece in the pan, arranging so they are not overlapping.

– Gently swirl the frying pan by the handle to move the oil around the slices.  Let cook until you notice the slices beginning to curl under, about 3-4 minutes.

– Again using the tongs, carefully flip the slices and continue cooking another 3-4 minutes, or less if you notice they are staring to caramelize past the point of desirability.  I phrase it this way because even slices that appear to be outright burned are in fact just delicious.  But they may not look very appetizing…

– Set the finished slices on the paper towel you prepped earlier.  Quite a bit of oil will absorb.  Allow slices to cool completely before removing from the towel.

– Repeat the sugar-dusting and frying process until you have completed frying all of the citrus you plan to use.  Add additional olive oil as needed throughout process.

– Set the caramelized slices aside for the time being.

– Pre-heat the oven to 300 Degrees F.

– Next, slice the mozzarella into equally thin slices, and place on a second paper-towel & plate set up.  Why are we doing this?  To absorb some of the inherent moisture in the cheese, so that the bread will stay crispy even once the mozz is added.

– Set a sheet of parchment paper on the cookie sheet.

– Then, slice your baguette into thin slices, and place on the prepared cookie sheet.

– Brush with the remaining olive oil, and bake at 300 Degrees F for 8 minutes.  We’re aiming for just barely golden brown.

– When the baguette slices are finished, set them on your serving tray immediately and add one slice of  mozzarella plus one-two slices of citrus to each.  Garnish with basil.

Serve with something bubbly for an extra punch!

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