In Season

Squeeze in more flavor

February 21, 2007|By Brad Schleicher | Brad Schleicher,Sun Reporter

To the untrained eye, the blood orange, which originated in 17th-century Sicily, might seem like any midsized orange or grapefruit that has passed its prime. On the contrary, the spotted crimson skin of a blood orange is perfectly normal.

"Connoisseurs of citrus fruits consider these oranges to be among some of the world's finest dessert oranges," says Alan Davidson in The Penguin Companion to Food.

There are three varieties of blood orange: the Moro, the Tarocco and the Sanguinello. Each orange ripens at different times of the year and is grown in immense quantities in the Mediterranean region.

In the United States, blood oranges -- mostly the Moro variety -- are only available from December to midspring because of climate sensitivity. The deep-red pigment of the blood orange is cultivated by warm days and cool winter nights.

brad.schleicher@baltsun.com

TIPS BUYING

Select fruit with skins that are firm throughout. Fruit with a deeper crimson color are more mature, less acidic and sweeter.

STORING

This fruit can be kept ripe two to four weeks in the refrigerator.

COOKING

Blood oranges are useful for much more than dessert. Use the orange's juice to flavor cocktails, marmalades, salad dressings or sauces.

Chef Kevin Miller of Ixia restaurant recommends pairing a sweet blood-orange vinaigrette with pan-seared sea scallops. "Blood oranges work well with a lot of Mediterranean cuisine," he says. "I enjoy these oranges because of their bitterness and lower acidity."

In Melissa's Great Book of Produce, Cathy Thomas recommends using the juice of a blood orange or another citrus fruit to combat the dryness of a roast chicken.

Or, use the blood orange juice in a mock margarita:

MOCK MARGARITA

SERVES 2 TO 3

1 / 2 cup of blood orange juice

10 ounces frozen margarita mixer

2 tablespoons lime juice

5 to 6 ice cubes

1 lime wedge

sugar to coat rim of glass

sliced fresh fruit for garnish

In a blender, combine blood orange juice, margarita mixer and lime juice. Add ice and blend until the consistency is smooth and slushy. Slowly add more ice if you desire a thicker margarita.

Rub the rim of each margarita glass with a lime wedge.

Pour sugar onto a plate. Dip the rim of each glass in the sugar until the entire rim is covered in sugar. Empty the contents of the blender into the glasses. Garnish with skewers of sliced fresh fruit.

From gourmetsleuth.com

Per serving (based on 3 servings): 188 calories, trace protein, 0 grams fat, 0 grams saturated fat, 47 grams carbohydrate, trace fiber, 0 milligrams cholesterol, 1 milligram sodium

ONLINE To search for recipes by keyword or publication date, visit baltimoresun.com / taste

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