Food: Susan Semenak on citrus
By Susan Semenak
Published Wednesday, January 23, 2013 12:27PM EST
Last Updated Wednesday, January 23, 2013 1:26PM EST
Citrus is the perfect cure for northern grey winter.
Just when we most need a hit of vitamin C and a splash of colour, the juiciest crops of grapefruits, oranges, clementines and tangerines arrive with a tropical burst from Florida, California, Spain and Morocco.
A single orange provides a day’s worth of vitamin C (82 milligrams). But that’s not all there is. Beyond oranges and clementines, there's a whole world of lesser known
Citrus fruits - from pomelos and blood oranges to kumquats and Meyer lemons. Visually stunning, aromatic and delicious to cook with, they heighten flavor and add a tangy endnote to dishes both sweet and savoury.
Pomelos Known as the king of the citrus world, the light green to pale yellow pomelo looks like an over-sized grapefruit, sometimes as big as a basketball, with very thick pith.
Pomelos taste like milder, sweeter grapefruits. They are popular in Thai and other South Asian cuisines, but also in Mexican cooking. Pomelo, or toronja, juice, is the key ingredient in the popular Mexican tequila cocktail called La Paloma.
Eat pomelos peeled and divided in segments or cut up into fruit salad.
Meyer lemons These are a cross between lemons and mandarin oranges developed by scientists at the United States Department of Agriculture in the early 1900s.
Meyer lemons, with their smooth, thin orangey zest and sweet pulp, are much sweeter than conventional lemons.
They are great for making freshly-squeezed lemonade, marmalade or cocktails.
Blood oranges Drama queens, blood oranges come in shocking shades of crimson and burgundy. They grow in Italy, Spain and California. There’s the crimson-fleshed Moro and the red-flecked Tarocco varieties.
Sicilians love blood oranges sliced into winter salads and muddled into cocktails or frozen into gelato and sorbeto.
They are also great with grilled poultry and fish, in salsas and marmalades.
Kumquats These little orange-coloured jewels are only the size of a large olive, but they pack a mouth-puckering punch. Grown in California and Florida, kumquats have sweet skin and tart pulp – the opposite of an orange.
Pop them in your mouth and eat them whole or cut them into fine slices and add to salads.
Add to pork or chicken during the last half hour or so of braising to add zesty acidity and a hint of sweetness.
Or try kumquats candied: In a simple syrup of equal parts sugar and water, simmer kumquats for about 20 minutes, or until tender and slightly translucent. Use the fruit on ice cream or yogurt and the syrup in cocktails.
Here are a few simple recipes that make the best of the citrus fruits now in season:
Makes 1 jar
A handful of spices and tiny wedges of orange and lemon dress up plain green jarred olives for a brightly-flavoured addition to the antipasto tray. Keep a jar of these in the refrigerator for up to several weeks.
- 2 cups brined green olives, drained
- 1 orange, quartered and sliced into very small wedges
- 1 lemon, quartered and sliced into very small wedges
- Finely grated zest of one orange and one lemon
- 1 clove garlic,
- 2 teaspoons fennel seeds, toasted and lightly crushed
- ½ teaspoon crushed red chili pepper flakes
- 1 teaspoon dried oregano
- Sea salt
- 1 teaspoon whole black peppercorns
- 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
In a large bowl, combine all ingredients, tossing to coat olives well. Transfer to a jar and let stand at least 24 hours before serving. Keep refrigerated.
Orange and Fennel Salad with Citrus Vinaigrette
This is a bold burst of colour and sweet and tangy flavor, a Sicilian-inspired salad that is perfect for ending a meal.
- 1 large fennel bulb, trimmed and thinly sliced
- 2 blood oranges, peeled, seeded and sliced crosswise
- 1 navel orange, peeled and sliced crosswise
For Citrus Vinaigrette:
- 1 green onion, finely chopped
- 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
- 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar vinegar
- 2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
- 2 tablespoons freshly squeezed orange juice
- Finely grated zest of half a lemon and half an orange
- Sea salt and freshly grated black pepper
On a platter or in a shallow serving dish, combine fennel and blood oranges.
In a small bowl, whisk together ingredients for vinaigrette.
Pour over fennel and oranges, toss to combine and allow to stand at room temperature for at least 15 minutes before serving. Taste for seasoning and add more salt and pepper if necessary.