Monday, February 9, 2009

Fight February with Blood Oranges

blood orange half

It's February, and the weather is pretty miserable. There are cold fronts, snow storms, dense fog, and freezing rain blanketing various parts of the country.

Fortunately, I've got just the pick-me-up for you: blood oranges. From their blushed rind to their scarlet flesh to their tangy flavor, blood oranges are among the most dazzling of citrus fruits. Since their season runs from December to April, they're also at their peak right now.

So grab your scarves, rain boats, and winter coats, and get to the market today to purchase some blood oranges. Though there are three types sold in the U.S. -- moro, tarocco, and sanguinello -- you'll likely find moros in your supermarket since they're the most common blood oranges sold here.

Moros have a bright orange rind with a rose blush and deep crimson flesh. When you pierce into the flesh, you will see instantly why they're called blood, or sanguine, oranges. Anthocyanin, the same chemical that makes blueberries blue, gives the flesh their characteristic bloody color, which can range from pale scarlet to deep magenta, depending on the variety and stage of maturation. They're also packed with health-promoting antioxidants, vitamin C, fiber, and potassium, so they may even help ward off a February cold.

If you've never had a blood orange, then expect to be wowed. Like their appearance, their flavor is singular: the initial bite tastes like a subtly sweet orange infused with tangy red grapefruit; then slowly and deliciously, you experience, hints of sparkling cherries and sweet-tart raspberries.

Though blood oranges are grown in Mediterranean climates such as Italy, Spain, and California, you can savor them no matter where you live. With their rising popularity over the past several years, they are being sold in most U.S. organic markets and general supermarkets and can even be ordered online.

So treat yourself this February to some fresh blood oranges. Who knows, you may just forget all about those 5 inches of snow that need to be shoveled off of the driveway.

tilapia blood orange salsa orange mat

Tilapia with Zesty Blood Orange and Mango Salsa

Seafood and citrus wed beautifully. This vibrant and tangy blood orange and mango salsa brings out the best in pan-seared tilapia or any of several types of seafood, including halibut, cod, or shrimp.

Makes 4 servings
Print recipe only here.
2 blood oranges
1 small mango, peeled and diced
2-3 green onions, thinly sliced
the zest of 1 blood orange
1/2 teaspoon fresh minced ginger
the juice of 1/2 lime (about 2 teaspoons)
1 red or green
jalapeño, finely chopped (the more the seeds, the hotter the flavor)
2 teaspoons each fresh finely chopped cilantro and mint

salt, to taste

2 teaspoons olive oil
salt and freshly ground black pepper
4 (4-6 oz) pieces of tilapia or other white fish such as halibut or cod

Using a sharp knife, peel the blood oranges, removing all bitter white pith. Working over a small bowl, cut between membranes to release sections. Add mango, green onions, orange zest, ginger, lime juice, jalapeño, herbs, and salt. I suggest adding the diced avocado just prior to serving the salsa to prevent it from being stained red by the blood oranges.
Heat olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Season both sides of fish with salt and pepper. Add fish to the pan; sauté until lightly browned and crisp on the outside and opaque on the inside, about 4-5 minutes per side. Place fish on a plate and top with a spoonful of salsa. Garnish with additional fresh herbs, if desired, and serve immediately.
Serving suggestion: Serve tilapia over a bed of whole wheat couscous with a side of steamed snow peas dressed with lemon juice and a splash of soy sauce.

Want to learn more about the history of blood oranges and how to cook with them? Then check out my latest NPR Kitchen Window article, "Blood Oranges: Change You Can Believe In." There you will find the following four recipes: Blood Orange and Mango Breakfast Parfaits, Wild Arugula, Blood Orange, and Prosciutto Salad, Mahi-Mahi with Blood Orange and Avocado Salsa, and Blood Orange Compote.

Also if you're looking for more healthy recipes, then check out GoHealthyGoFit, a great web site devoted to healthy living. Andrew, who runs the site, recently asked me to contribute a couple of healthy recipes, which you can check out here.

You might also like these winter citrus dishes:

Wild Arugula and Blood Orange Salad with Prosciutto

Pan Seared Sea Scallops with Kumquats

Coconut Lemonquat Tea Cake

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