Monday, March 3, 2008

Sunday, Bloody (Orange) Sunday

Blood Oranges at Farmers' Market

It rained here for the last three weekends. As a result, the Sunday farmers' market was nearly empty. (Southern Californians don't go out in the rain.) So, it's been just a few farmers, some die-hard vegetarians, and a handful of New England transplants.

This all changed yesterday. It was the quintessential San Diego day -- a glorious 72 degrees, sunny, with a light breeze. You couldn't move at the farmers' market. People were clamoring for colorful rainbow carrots, luscious Meyer lemons, and tart pink grapefruit.

The biggest attraction was the exceptionally juicy, tangy blood oranges that beckoned market-goers with their ruby-colored flesh. One poor farmer handing out samples nearly got trampled on by a gaggle of Red Hats who were visiting. And there I was without my camera. Ugh.

So what's all the fuss about? Anthocyanin, the same chemical that makes blueberries blue and cranberries red, gives blood oranges their characteristic "bloody"color. It can range from bright ruby red to deep burgundy and has an exceptionally pleasing sweet-tart flavor unlike any other orange.

It's more than just their brilliant flesh that makes them so prized, it's their unique flavor -- like a sweet orange that has been infused with tangy tangerine and tart cherries.

Blood oranges are pricey--usually $3.00/ lb here-- but they're worth it. Their season generally runs from January-April, so now is the time to get them.

citrus and arugula salad

Try them in savory salads of bitter greens, zesty salsas for seafood, or even grain dishes. As for sweets, they're amazing in marmalades, delicious in baked goods, and sophisticated when paired with simple vanilla ice cream or pudding. Or you could eat 'em plain. Just don't wear a white shirt while doing so. Take my word for it.

Sicily has some of the world's must sought-after blood oranges, which was my inspiration for this peppery wild arugula salad with juicy blood oranges, tart pink grapefruit, and tangy minneolas (another citrus hybrid that is half grapefruit and half tangerine). Crispy, salty prosciutto contrasts pleasingly with the sweet-tart fruit while earthy pine nuts add complexity and texture. This is a salad that isn't easily forgettable.

Wild Arugula and Blood Orange Salad with Prosciutto
Serves 4
Print recipe only here.

6 cups of wild arugula**
2 blood oranges, peeled and sliced cross-wise
1 pink grapefruit, peeled and sliced cross-wise
1 Minneola tangerine, peeled and sliced cross-wise
3 ounces proscuitto, torn into small strips
2 teaspoons toasted pine nuts

Orange-Fennel Vinaigrette:
1/2 teaspoon fennel seeds, toasted
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon rice vinegar
1/4 cup freshly squeezed blood orange juice or navel orange juice
1/4 teaspoon orange zest
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
salt and pepper, to taste

To toast the pine nuts, place them in a small, dry skillet over medium heat. Shake the pan handle back and forth for 1-2 minutes, or until the nuts are golden brown and aromatic. Set aside.

To make the vinaigrette, place fennel seeds in a dry skillet over medium heat. Shake the pan handle back and forth for 1-2 minutes, or until slightly toasted and aromatic. Place in a bowl, and whisk in remaining vinaigrette ingredients.

Layer prosciutto slices in a medium skillet over medium heat for 30 seconds. Flip once and cook an additional 20-30 seconds or until crispy. Set aside.

Arrange fruit slices on a plate, top with a bunch of arugula, and 1/4 of the prosciutto. Drizzle with dressing, and sprinkle with pine nuts.

**Wild arugula is a svelter version of regular arugula and has a slightly more peppery flavor; it can be found in most organic stores such as Whole Foods. Of course, regular arugula can be substituted.

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