Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Orange You Glad!

The first week of the new year started with me getting a little winter cold. But, luckily, one particular family came to my rescue and helped me get healthy quick...the Citrus family. Mr. & Mrs. Orange, Auntie Clementine and Little Tangelo were all eager to provide me with ample amounts of Vitamin C, antioxidants, minerals, B vitamins and fiber. How nice of them! In honor of this wonderful family of fruits I decided to do some research and share what I found with you all. I focused my research on the orange and mandarin groups since that is what I have been indulging in the past few days. (Sorry lemons and grapefruits, you'll have your chance to shine another time!)

First of all there are three main types of oranges: bitter oranges, sweet oranges, and mandarins. Bitter oranges are used mainly to make jams, jellies, marinades, or in liqueurs. Sweet oranges include Navels, Valencia, and blood oranges. Naval oranges are the common easy to spot orange that is large, thick skinned, bright true orange in color and looks like it has a bellybutton on it, hence the term naval. Valencia oranges have a yellower tone, are smaller, have a thin skin that is difficult to peel and are perfect for making freshly squeezed o.j. Blood oranges are the smallest, have an orangy red skin, no seeds, and are sweeter and less acidic than other oranges. The unique thing about these natural beauties is that the flesh is either orange with red veins or a blood red color. When orange flavor is needed, yet you want to dazzle your guests, blood oranges are perfect to add to your culinary repertoire. Last, but not least, mandarins include a wide variety of fruits such as the tangerine, tangelo (cross between a grapefruit and a tangerine), and clementine. This group has a smaller fruit and a thin skin that comes off quite easy.

Currently in Florida, the ambersweet orange, naval orange, pineapple orange, orlando tangelo, sunburst tangerine, dancy tangerine, and minneola tangerine are all in season. When you purchase an orange look for ones that have healthy, vibrant, glossy looking skins and feel heavy for their size. The heavier they are the juicier they are. (Those of you with dirty minds, can chuckle over that sentence.) Store at room temperature for juicer fruits that will be eaten soon. If not eating soon, store mandarins in the fridge unwrapped up to 1 week and oranges up to 2 weeks. So now that you know a little bit more about these nutritional, aromatic, and vibrant delicacies, let's discuss how you can enjoy them.

Oranges are really versatile, and aside from the tasty, quick snack or morning beverage, can be used in many dishes. Try these salad variations by combining the following ingredients with a citrus vinaigrette:
Greens-watercress, arugula or spinach
Red onions - thinly sliced
Dried cranberries or fresh pomegranate seeds
Blue cheese or goat cheese
Toasted walnuts, almonds or pecans
Make a roasted red and golden beet salad, with sectioned oranges, fresh herbs, arugula, spinach, goat cheese, and balsamic reduction. Also, try a fresh fruit salad with a citrus honey glaze, toasted coconut shreds, dates, and grated cinnamon. Or how about a Moroccan carrot salad made of shredded carrots, plump raisins, toasted pumpkin seeds, and an orange vinaigrette.
In Morocco, they use oranges in a lot of their recipes and also use orange blossom water which is made from orange blossoms. Try an orange almond shake made of blanched, peeled almonds blended with milk, sugar to taste and orange blossom water. If you want to cook an exotic meal try using the traditional Moroccan flavors of oranges, dates, almonds, cinnamon and honey in some recipe. Or go more Asian and create a variation of udon noodles in peanut sauce by adding orange juice to the sauce. Try marinating tofu in a marinade of orange juice, soy sauce, sesame oil, fresh ginger, grated zest, and cayenne, and then pan searing it. Serve a top of jasmine rice or soba noodles with sauteed snow peas and carrots.
The ideas are limitless with this versatile, delicious, and nutritious family which will treat your taste buds and your body to lots of love. When your feeling under the weather, or just want to transport your mouth to paradise, experiment with oranges and see how you feel. Orange you glad that you did!

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