Grapefruit Caramels

I’m not really sure why but a week ago I decided to make caramels.  The thought just popped into my head and it wouldn’t leave until I put butter and sugar together in a saucepan.  Did I have a candy thermomenter?  No!  Did I have free time?  No!  Did I have butter and sugar?  Obviously.  So I was more than halfway there.

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I also had four grapefruits that I bought on a whim, imagining I would eat them in a morning to get a healthy energy boost before class.  Then I realized that was a fantasy and that breakfast for me was a spoonful of peanut butter eaten on the go.

But just because these grapefruits weren’t going to give me some Vitamin C in the morning didn’t mean they were useless.  In fact they had a much nobler purpose–and here we arrive at grapefruit caramels.

I’ve never been a huge fan of citrus desserts, possibly because I’ll always go for something creamy or chocolately over something fruit-y.  Sorbet instead of ice cream?  Psh.  Don’t be ridiculous.

But citrus with caramel is a whole nother ball game.  The tart grapefruit cuts the richness of the caramel and makes it more sophisticated.  Plus you wrap them in parchment paper squares and twist the ends, making cute little packages that feel right out of a Martha Stewart magazine.  And people go ga-ga over them.  Just ask my housemates.

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If you ever want to impress someone, or just feel extremely accomplished, and you have thirty minutes these caramels are the ticket.  With just butter, sugar, cream, and grapefruit you get something so utterly chewy, sweet, tart and delicious it’s kind of ridiculous.  Ly awesome.

Grapefruit Caramels

Adapted from Smitten Kitchen

  • 4 grapefruits, or 2 cups of grapefruit juice
  • 1 tablespoon grapefruit zest
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 8 tablespoons unsalted butter (1 stick), cut into chunks
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1/3  cup heavy cream
  • Neutral oil for the knife

Boil the grapefruit juice in a 3-4 quart saucepan over high heat for 30ish minutes, until it has been reduced to about 1/3 cup of syrup.

Line the bottom of an 8×8-inch pan with two sheets of crisscrossed parchment paper.

Once you have finished reducing the grapefruit juice, stir in the butter, sugars, zest and cream.  Let it boil until candy thermometer registers 252 degrees farenheit.  I did not have a candy thermometer due to being a cheap college student, so I boiled it about five minutes and did the soft ball test.  Have a bowl of very cold water next to stove, and after five minutes drop a spoonful of caramel into it.  If it becomes firm, chewy, and able to be plied into a ball your caramel is ready.  KEEP AN EYE ON IT!

Immediately remove caramel from heat, add the salt, and pour mixture into prepared pan.  Let it cool until slightly firm, about 2 hours at room temperature or an hour in the fridge.  Once cooled, transfer caramel and parchment paper to a cutting board.  Oil knife before each cut (definitely necessary!) and cut caramels into 64 1-inch squares.  Wrap each in a 4-inch square of parchment paper, twisting the sides to close.

Keep refrigerated for firmer caramels (how I preferred them), or at room temp for chewier ones.

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P.S. keep an eye out for more caramel variations!  On the to-do list: beer-pretzel  and cayenne pepper.

In Which I Uncover Figo’s Secrets


If you are from Atlanta you definitely know Figo.  It is a cute little pseudo-chain in which you pick a pasta and a sauce and some waiter with an Italian accent gives you a brightly painted pepper grinder and then brings it out to you.  They have Italian sodas and Tiramisu to make everything feel authentic, and even offer to sprinkle your pasta with parmesan for you.  It’s pretty swanky.  Look at that moped!

figo

It’s also only eight dollars, which means it has been a go-to since the earliest days of high school.  Here is a typical conversation about where to go to dinner:

“Hey, let’s try some place new tonight!  Maybe in midtown, we could do thai or something…”

“Ugh I had thai last night.  What about that new tapas place?”

“Nah it’s super expensive and the wait is always out the door.”

“Hm.  Figo?”

“Yeah!”

Suffice it to say it’s a classic.

I have tried pretty much every pasta/sauce combination, because I have a difficult time deciding on anything and am constantly afraid that I am missing out.  However, after years of testing, I have found the ultimate.  Penne with Siciliana.

Siciliana is a spicy tomato sauce with roasted eggplant and big chunks of fresh mozzarella.  Perfectly balanced bites are key.  And I have found its secret and created it at home!  And now you can too!

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This sauce is also a great way to shine the spotlight on eggplants.  I can’t be the only one who buys these guys because they’re healthy and on sale and then can never figure out a way to use them.

Ideally this sauce would go with homemade spinach penne, but let’s be real.  This is pretty good.

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Here are some happy campers eating their Siciliana.  A guarantee cure for the Winter Time Blues, at least while you’re eating it.

Penne alla Siciliana

inspired by Figo

1 large eggplant, diced into 1-inch cubes

olive oil

shake of red pepper flakes

salt

1 onion, diced

2 cloves garlic, minced

1 can whole peeled tomatoes

1 8-oz (ish) ball of fresh mozzarella cheese, cubed

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.  Toss eggplant with two tablespoons of olive oil and sprinkle with salt.  Roast for 30-40 minutes, until eggplant is wrinkly and soft.

Heat one tablespoon of olive oil in a large saucepan.  Add onion, red pepper flakes, and a half teaspoon salt, stir for a minute or two, add garlic.  Cook, stirring occasionally, until translucent.  Add canned tomatoes and stir.  Let simmer for thirty minutes.

While sauce is cooking, heat large pot of water and salt it.  This is my pet peeve.  Pasta water should be as salty as the ocean!  When boiling add your preferred pasta, but use something tube-y with texture (rigatoni, penne, etc).  Cook until al dente according to box.

Take pot off heat and let cool slightly.  Using immersion blender, or actual blender, blend sauce until smooth.  Add in roasted eggplant and chunks of mozzarella.  If you have fresh basil add that too, I am too cheap.

Top pasta with sauce and sprinkle with parmesan.  At Figo they top this sauce with Ricotta Salata, which would be good too.

Buon Appetito! (I googled that)