I’ve always been fascinated and inspired by things that spoon, nestle and stack... from measuring spoons to matrushka dolls, husk tomatoes and garden-fresh peas in a pod. Surprising inspiration can be found by digging a little deeper…by being awake to the beauty and bounty of nature. Our family enjoys filling acorn caps with beeswax for floating candles, coring crab apples for candleholders and taking the time to make a wish on the star nestled inside the apple before gobbling up its satisfying sweetness.
There are many ways to use veggie and fruit ‘jackets’ for a whimsical and joyful presentation. In the autumn I fill our holiday pumpkin and abundant varieties of local squash with harvest risotto, fusing the flavors together with a slow roasting. I also scoop out halved oranges, fill the orange bowls with a variety of seasonal fruit and top with an orange ‘hat’ (inside segment of orange). While my family nibbles on pomegranate seeds, I fill the leathery, rose-colored cups with fresh spinach, juicy pomegranate pods, nuts, and salty strands of shaved parmesan. Another idea is to have roasted peppers cradle fresh-egg soufflés with a side of guacamole served in avocado halves.
I broil sectioned grapefruit bowls topped with a medley of citrus, mango and toasted coconut, bake tomato baskets drizzled with a balsamic reduction, sprinkled with fresh herbs and blanketed with crumbled goat cheese, and of course, a family favorite is baked apples swaddled in pie crust with cinnamon, brown sugar and ginger tucked into their core. There are endless ways to use fruit and veggie jackets as enchanting little vessels.
With Tu BiShvat (Jewish New Year for the trees) approaching and the availability of the clementine, here’s an idea to adorn your table and fill your room with fresh aroma. These enchanting, aromatic lanterns are nature's little illumination for your Tu BiShvat Seder, a chavruta discussion, or even to refresh a small room.
- Gently score the perimeter of a clementine, just close enough to see the fruit inside. Take care not to cut through the center of the fruit.
- Carefully remove the peel from the fruit, one half at a time, by slipping your finger between the peel and the fruit. Be sure to reserve the center strand of pulp that shoots up through the center of the fruit. This strand of pulp, which is connected to the stem, will later serve as the wick.
- On the top half of the clementine, use a pairing knife to cut out a star, a tree, a leaf, or any design you’d like!
- Set bottom of clementine on a fireproof coaster/plate and fill the bottom quarter with olive oil. When you pour the oil into the clementine cup, drizzle a little bit over the “wick”. Light your clementine wick!
- Carefully position the cut out top of the clementine centered over the flame. The flame must be fully unobstructed otherwise it will burn.
Take a moment to reflect in the aromatic light. expressing gratitude to the trees for their beauty and bounty. Soak in the light all around. And of course, enjoy your quenching clementine!