Are you as tired of 2008 as I am? The stock market is tanking as miserably as the housing market, winter storms have left us without power for days (and, in one case I know, without a roof), and I just might scream if I listen to any more caucus coverage. The general mood is anything but sanguine. Is there any good news?
Well, yes. California’s citrus crops have been doing rather nicely, especially when compared to last year’s disastrous freeze. I realize this isn’t the most exciting news in the world, but I feel the need keep my joys simple this year, and what could be simpler than a small, roundish piece of fruit?
Of all the known oranges in the universe, my favorite is the Citrus sinensis, or blood orange. There are three common varieties of which I am aware: the Sicilian Tarocco, the Spanish Sanguinello, and the Moro, which is grown right here. Not exactly “right here”, but rather in San Diego. And Texas and Florida, but those are two states I generally try not to think about.
Blood oranges aren’t exactly a revelation to most foodies today. In fact, some may think them overplayed and mildly pretentious (before you say anything, remember: glass houses). But, if you can reach back into your past, when you weren’t so jaded about food a moment…
The first time I encountered a blood orange, I was fascinated. Don’t tell me you weren’t. The stupid thought of, “It’s an orange, but it’s red!” popped out of my mouth. Thank God I was among friends. I think I also used the word “neat”. The flavor was, of course, citrusy, but tinged with berries. The acid wasn’t overpowering and there was a hint of bitterness behind the sweet of it. It was a fruit I could wholly identify with. I bought up several and ate them out-of-hand, I put them into salads, I squeezed them for juice, which I still do. Apparently, so should you. Read on:
Anthocyanin, the pigment, which gives the orange its distinctive interior color (and possibly gives the fruit its subtle berry-flavored notes), is a powerful antioxidant that neutralizes the effects of free-radical chemicals within our bodies. Free radicals, if you haven’t heard, are in part responsible for cancer and, even more horrifying to some people, aging. Anthocyanins also help prevent ulcers and improve one’s vision, so drink and eat up.
Blood Orange Salad
I want to thank Erik Cosselmon of Kokkari for this one. There are innumerable ways to slip blood oranges into salads, but this is my favorite method, by far. It’s great to eat as either a salad course or as dessert.
3 blood oranges (Moro are used here, but use whichever you want or can find)
2 to 3 dates (I used Medjools), pit removed and cut into slivers
1/4 cup walnuts, either toasted and salted or candied. I vote candied.
Olive oil for drizzling, the best you’ve got.
Rose water for more drizzling.
1. With a very sharp knife, cut skin from the oranges. Slice the flesh into 1/2-inch pieces, across the grain, so that they look rather like bleeding morning glories. Arrange on your serving dish of choice.
2. Sprinkle slivered dates and walnuts over and around the orange slices.
3. Drizzle with olive oil.
4. Drizzle with rose water (orange blossom water works very well, too, if rosewater reminds you too much of your grandmother). Be very sparing with the rose water, otherwise your salad will smell rather whorish, in my opinion.
5. Serve and eat. Exhausting recipe, I know. I’ll do my best to present you with something easier next time.