First thing is first, happy birthday baby brother, I hope your 23rd year is a happy one! Every now and again the dreary and cold weather here in Sydney is replaced by a brilliant blue sky and sunshine galore. When this happens the last place I want to be is cooped up in my kitchen and so this beautiful orange and grapefruit dessert was the perfect way to end a warm and sunny afternoon. Cutting the citrus segments was the most time consuming part but when assembled in alternating orange and pink stripes the added effort is well worth it.

Henri Matisse, A Vase with Oranges, 1916
Oil on canvas, Private Collection

Henri Matisse, one of the most illustrious 20th century artists, worked in a beautiful fluid style with strong colour. His work was part of the Fauvist movement which was characterized by emotion expressed with incongruent colours, simplified forms to the point of abstraction, and wild brush strokes (1). A Vase with Orange is representative of Matisse’s mature painting style. At this point in his career his subjects had heavy contours with little detail inside. He was quoted saying that he wanted “an art of balance, of purity and serenity, devoid of troubling or depressing subject matter” (2). The painting above is perfectly balanced in terms of its placement upon the canvas and of the subject matter. Like the Hawkins painting of grapefruit, the round shape of the oranges is repeated in the the bowl both at the top and at the base. It is the incongruous perspectival plane and cropping of the subject matter that makes this painting decidedly modern.

Citrus plants belong to the family Rutaceae and are found in tropical and subtropical regions of the world. The word citrus is derived from the Greek word kedros meaning ‘cedar, juniper’. Romans applied the word to fragrant trees, citrus trees being one of them. It is only in climates with a cool winter that citrus fruits obtain their colour. In areas with no winter the fruit remains green, even at maturity because the warmth causes more chlorophyll to shift into the peel. The fruit will change color however if placed in a cool place overnight (3). A citrus fruit from Florida is 25% heavier than a fruit grown outside of the state because of a thinner peel and more juice.

{Orange & Grapefruit with peppermint-chocolate toffee}

adapted from flagrante delicia

1 orange
1 grapefruit

peppermint-chocolate toffee:
1 TB sugar
2 tsp water
1 TB chocolate
1 TB chopped peppermint
1 TB sour cream

Use a paring knife to remove all the peel, white pith, and membrane from outside the fruit. The flesh should be exposed. For each section, cut between the fruit and membrane on each side. Lift out each segment and put them on small serving bowls. Set aside.

Bring the sugar and water to boil until it caramelizes. Add cream and peppermint and chocolate while stirring the mixture constantly. Remove from heat.

Serve the orange and grapefruit with ice cream and peppermint toffee.