She blurted something that had nothing to do with anything. “Do you know how to make honeyed half-moons?”
“Do I…” He lowered the map. “Kestrel, I hate to disappoint you, but I was never a cook.”
“You know how to make tea.”
He laughed. “You do realize that boiling water is within the capabilities of anybody?”
The Winner’s Curse by Marie Rutkoski, 5/5 stars
For some novels, food is almost a central character, like Brian Jacques’s Redwall series. (I can’t believe I haven’t covered any Redwall yet!) Typically, I just don’t feature the novel on my blog if food isn’t prominent, though I’ll give the book a shoutout on my Bookstagram. Then there’s books that are just too good to let slide by. I don’t care how far I have to stretch a recipe to relate it back to the book, it will be on the blog! The fruit tart I created for Illuminae is a perfect example of this. Nobody ate a fruit tart in Illuminae. In fact, I think all food products were freeze dried. Ew.
Marie Rutkoski’s Winner’s trilogy doesn’t focus much on food, other than fruits, many of which were made up and specific to Herran, the principle setting in this series. Frankly, a lot of the food was gross, like this meal from book two, The Winner’s Crime:
There were boats made from a meat terrine, their sails clear gelatin. She ate slowly.
So…meat loaf shaped like a boat with Jell-o sails. No, thank you. Dessert for this meal was accompanied by a pile of pink whipped cream. Just no. We can do so much better.
These scrumptious coconut macaroons are influenced by Kestrel and Arin’s disastrous half-moon cookie experiment as well as Arin’s love of oranges.
Other slaves might have been tempted, during the walk through the orange grove that stood between the forget and the slaves’ quarters, to pluck a fruit from the tree. To peel it hurriedly, bury the bright rind in the soil, and eat. Sometimes as Arin ate his meals of bread and stew he thought about it. When he walked under the trees, it was almost unbearable. The scent of citrus made his throat dry. But he didn’t touch the fruit.
-The Winner’s Curse
I keep getting the question: “Any food aversions during pregnancy?”
My response: “….all foods?”
During my first trimester when all smells were offensive and I felt miserable at all times, Brice and I were walking through Wegman’s. It was like an assault on my nose, each scent worse than the last. Until I got this whiff of freshly squeezed orange juice. It was soothing. It was refreshing. It was glorious. Oranges and their smell have been a consistent safe harbor over the last few months, so naturally, I had a drawer full in my fridge!
He jumped the orange from one hand to the other, marveling at it.
She said, “I didn’t know whether you like them.”
“I never told you. Actually …” He rolled it in the well of one palm. “I love them.”
– The Winner’s Kiss
Me too, Arin. Me too.
These cookies were a lesson in balance. Too much orange juice just added moisture which created cookie pools. The zest helps the flavor come through, in addition to some zest added to the chocolate coating.
He dug his thumb in and peeled it open. Its perfume sprayed the air. He halved it and gave Kestrel her share.
They sat on the grass outside his tent. They’d camped in a meadow not far from the road. He touched the grass, sleek beneath his fingers. He ate. The fruit was vibrant on his tongue. It had been years. “Thank you.”
He thought he saw her mouth curve, and he was washed by a breathless nervousness. He spat a seed into his palm and wondered what little kernel lay in the folds of this moment. Then he told himself to stop thinking. An orange. A rare enough pleasure. Just eat.
– The Winner’s Kiss
Half-Moon Chocolate Orange Macaroons
Yield: appx. 24 cookies
Adapted from this Kitchn recipe.
5 cups of sweetened, shredded coconut
4 large egg whites
1/2 cup of sugar
1 teaspoon of vanilla
1/4 teaspoon of salt
zest of 1/2 an orange
juice of 1/2 an orange
For the chocolate:
zest of 1/2 an orange
1 cup of semi-sweet chocolate chips
1 teaspoon of coconut oil
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Optional: On a separate cookie sheet, spread the coconut on a cookie sheet and toast the coconut for approximately 10 to 15 minutes, until the coconut starts to toast. Stir and check the coconut frequently. The original recipe calls for 5 minutes, but at least in my oven, it was 10 minutes before I had any color on the coconut.
- In a large bowl, whisk together the egg whites, sugar, vanilla, salt, orange zest, and orange juice. This works best with an electric mixer. Mix for a couple of minutes until the egg whites are frothy.
- Stir the coconut into the egg white mixture until everything is evenly mixed.
- Line a cookie sheet with a Silpat sheet or parchment paper. Scoop the coconut mixture into small balls (about 1 and 1/2 tablespoons) and space evenly on the cookie sheet. I used my cookie dough scooper to keep the cookies consistent in size. With wet hands to prevent sticking, shape the cookies into half-moons. Place in the freezer for 10 to 20 minutes to help the cookies set.
- Bake the macaroons for 15 to 20 minutes until golden brown.
- Allow the cookies to cool completely while you prepare the chocolate. Combine the chocolate, coconut oil, and orange zest. Be careful not to get any orange juice in your chocolate with the zest. This will cause your chocolate to seize up. Microwave the chocolate for 30 seconds, stirring every 15 seconds. After 30 seconds, most of the chocolate won’t be melted, but stirring it all together will do the trick. If the chocolate still isn’t melting, put it in the microwave for ten second increments until you have a smooth chocolate dip.
- Dip the bottoms of the macaroons in the chocolate. Set on your Silipat/parchment paper lined cookie sheet, chocolate side up. Set in the freezer for 20 minutes. Store the cookies in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to one week.
Here’s to hoping you have easier access to oranges than Arin.