I never was an orange-eater. Sure, I’d eat them, but I wouldn’t seek them out. They just didn’t thrill me. But have you ever had a spectacular orange? Unbelievably sweet, with enough acid to balance it out and absolutely full of flavor? Well, let me tell you somethin’- you’re in for a real treat when you do.
We are in the height of citrus season right now. So please, don’t buy raspberries or strawberries or blueberries right now. Buy citrus! Explore the huge variety of citrus that is available right now…Navel oranges, blood oranges, cara cara oranges, pomelo, oro blanco grapefruit, kumquats, Meyer lemons, and soooo many more.
Wandering through the Marin Farmer’s Market two weeks ago, I came upon a farm which grows tons of heirloom citrus. Bergamot, yuzu limes, sweet yellow limes, and so many more. It was fun to peruse.
But I must say, I’m still not too interested in peeling an orange and just eating it out of hand. But I’ll tell you what I discovered. Olive oil changes everything. I can’t get enough of this: sliced oranges on a plate, dressed with extra-virgin olive oil, a sprinkle of salt and a splash of red wine vinegar. We’ve been serving some variation of this salad at the restaurant for the past few weeks and it’s a hit with everybody. My favorite version includes avocado (though my avocado obsession can rightly be blamed on other things**). Other yummy additions are arugula leaves, chervil, cilantro, black pepper, chili flake, thinly sliced red onions, and fennel. But don’t stop there- there are a million additions that would be delish.
It would be pointless to supply a recipe for this salad. It couldn’t be easier. But what I will do is give you instructions for peeling a piece of citrus with a knife. Here’s how it goes. If you’re peeling a smallish piece of fruit, use a small paring knife. For a larger piece, like grapefruit, use a larger chef’s knife. Trim both the stem-end and flower-end of the citrus so that you barely cut into the flesh of the fruit. If your first trimming only cuts into the white pith, trim it again, a little farther in so that you get into the flesh of the citrus. Now, turn the citrus onto one of the cut ends. Using your sharp knife, slice down in a bulging vertical motion to slice off a slab of the rind. (Note that you must use a bulging vertical motion because your citrus is round, not flat!) The point here, is to remove all the rind and white pith, leaving behind the flesh of the fruit. If you accidentally leave some of the white pith behind, go back and trim it again- you’ll get better as you go. Now, turn the citrus slightly and make your next cut from top to bottom as you did with the previous cut. Turn the citrus and do it again. Continue along these lines until your whole citrus is peeled. Tada! Do you have a strangely-shaped, no-longer-oblong piece of fruit? Don’t worry- the more you practice, the better you’ll get- it’s a difficult task! (That being said, I worked for a chef once, who told me that she used to have new cooks peel citrus in this way during their try-out to assess their knife skills! Yikes!)
So, as you can see, I used blood-oranges in my yummy little salad (aren’t blood oranges gorgeous?) (and by the way, there are quite a few varieties of blood-oranges, all with slightly different flavors, acid levels and striations of color). But you can use any variety of citrus you want. Yum!
**So, maybe I am obsessed with certain foods during pregnancy- like avocado, yogurt, and spicy tomato sauce. But I didn’t think I had any strange cravings until Scott asked me what I had for lunch yesterday. “Romaine salad with toasted almonds, shallot-vinaigrette, and tomato sauce”, I replied. “Like, just cold tomato sauce stirred into your salad?” he asked incredulously…”Um… yeah.? Why? Does that sound weird to you?” He didn’t respond because he was laughing too hard.