I have a great fondness for all citrus fruits, but there’s something about the unusual color, flavor, and acid balance of blood oranges that puts them in a special category for me. They’re freaking irresistible. I can pass nearly all other citrus varieties by (unless I’m shopping for them specifically), but when I spot these, I just have to stop, pick out a few choice specimens and bring them home.
Blood orange season can be anywhere from late November to early May (depending on the variety and weather conditions), so don’t hesitate if you see them in the market. The “Moro” has the most intense color, but the “Sanguinello” and “Tarocco” are much sweeter.
Blood oranges are a favorite in Italy, where they appear peeled and sliced as a simple dessert, made into a sorbetto or gelato, or with sliced fennel in a salad–to name just a few incarnations. The juice alone is a fabulous dish in its own right, but stir in a slug of vodka, and you have what I call a “Sicilian Screwdriver.”
Last night made a dish I call “Blood Orange Salad with Pickled Onions and Hazelnuts” . I cooked sliced red onion in a mixture of blood orange juice, a little red wine vinegar, EVOO, cinnamon stick, cloves, bay leaf, salt and pepper, until the liquid was reduced and creamy (about 5 minutes). Then I drained them over a bowl to collect the sauce, and let everything cool. While this was happening, I selected just the small inner leaves from three romaine lettuce hearts and combined them with some hydroponic watercress leaves. I whisked a dab of Dijon mustard into the sauce, and tossed the greens in it. Then I peeled and segmented a couple more blood oranges and built the salad with all the components.
|Blood Orange Salad with Pickled Onions and Hazelnuts|
It still needed something, so I lightly toasted and skinned a few hazelnuts, cut them in half, and strewed them over the top. That totally nailed it. The flavor, texture and dry/juicy contrasts were nothing short of spectacular. Definitely going in the book.
Later today, I think I’ll go pick up however many are still left at the market and see what else I can come up with. Maybe that’ll encourage them to order more…