Thursday, January 6, 2011

Ways with Citrus


Winter is here and so are citrus fruits. My local farmer's markets are brimming right now with grapefruit, mandarin oranges, blood oranges, clementines, tangerines and lemons, and they are hard to resist. After all the sugary sweets of the holiday season, it's such a nice change to eat something naturally sweet from Mother Nature. Since citrus are acids, they are great detoxifiers after the excesses of the holidays.

I just love the burst of flavor that citrus adds. Even as a young child, I was immensely fond of lemons (and still am). One of my all-time favorite dressings is simply EVOO (extra virgin olive oil), lemon juice, salt and pepper. A simply dressed salad like that is just lovely. Lemon actually brightens the flavor of orange, so it may be a good idea to add them both to a dish.
But as much as I love lemons, as an homage to the county in which I live, Orange County, I want to start the new year off by celebrating oranges.

The fruit likely originated in Asia somewhere, and has undergone various genetic manipulations over the years in numerous countries, so there are many types of oranges available. In California though, the mostly widely cultivated varieties are navel and valencia oranges, the sorts you'll typically find in supermarkets. This is yet another reason to venture over to your farmer's market. Our local growers offer us variety and taste unmatched by supermarket chains.

Though Orange County was once nothing but acres and acres of ranch land and orange groves, now it's one master-planned community next to the other. But there are still pockets of orange groves to be found, perhaps left there from bygone times or newly planted as an homage to our namesake.

Either way, the orange is delicious in so many ways. I have included two recipes that I have made from a couple of cooking shows on the Food Channel, but I'd rather leave you thinking about how to substitute oranges and their juice into your cooking this season.

Slice orange wedges and avocados on top of your fresh green salads and add some tangerine juice in lieu of vinegar to your dressing (a little basil in this dressing makes it really great). Citrus juice is a great addition to vinaigrettes and marinades and adds a nice twist from the ordinary. Marinate your chicken or seafood in any types of citrus juice and some sesame oil for a lovely Asian-inspired flavor.

Though it's a little bit of work, it is an absolutely amazing salad: roasted beets with a reduction of orange and tangerine juice as a dressing. Topped with bleu cheese, this one will knock your socks off (click here for the recipe).

A little orange juice, cinnamon and honey blended into some plain yogurt makes a healthy dressing for fruit salad.

When making chocolate pudding, I sometimes add a little orange zest and cinnamon to it before it sets. It makes the dessert something you wouldn't ordinarily expect (click here for recipe).

When looking for ways to incorporate oranges, note that they pair nicely with the following: Armagnac, bananas, basil, chocolate, cinnamon, cloves, cranberries, cream and ice cream, grapefruit, honey, lemon, mint, olive oil and olives, onions, pomegranates, rosemary, vanilla, vinegar and walnuts.

I do have a recipe for an orange pound cake that I want to try.........if it's any good, I'll let you know. If you have any great uses for citrus or their juices, I'd love to hear from you.

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