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Thursday, Feb. 14, 2019 12:01 am

Stop the car!

In Florida in search of oranges

We were two hours from Disney World, but I only had one thing on my mind: sweet, luscious oranges. Originally we’d planned to fly, but I managed to talk my family into driving so we could load up the car with fresh citrus to bring home (not to mention I wasn’t terribly excited about flying with two little kids in tow).

What I hadn’t considered was the huge hurricane that tore through the Gulf several months back, decimating much of the region’s orange and peanut crops. I’d been scanning the roadside for miles looking for a farm stand, and when I finally spotted one I was giddy with fruity anticipation.

The sweet honeybell oranges did not disappoint. We also loaded up on Tupelo honey, a southern specialty. While the oranges were superb simply eaten out of hand or juiced, I’m also looking forward to using them in savory dishes. Their sweet, acidic kick is a perfect compliment to seafood, pork or rich cheeses. Thankfully many local groceries today stock an interesting variety of citrus, so I’ll be able to keep a bit of the Sunshine State alive in my kitchen even after my stockpile of souvenir oranges runs out.

Orange-pomegranate salsa
3 oranges (try a mixture of different varieties such as cara cara, blood orange or honeybell)
1 pomegranate
1 jalapeño
½ red onion, finely diced
1-2 cloves garlic, minced
1-2 teaspoons honey, depending on the sweetness of the oranges
Juice of one lime
1 bunch cilantro, chopped
Salt, to taste

Start by preparing the oranges. Slice off the top and bottom of the orange, then use a sharp knife to slice off the peel and pith, following the curve of the orange. Cut the peeled orange in quarters, slice off the pithy strip along the inside of each quarter, then cut the segments into ½-inch dice. Add to a mixing bowl.

Cut the top and bottom off of the pomegranate, then score the skin on one side to break the fruit in half. Pluck out the aperils with your fingers and add them to the mixing bowl along with the diced oranges.

I highly recommend wearing rubber gloves when working with hot chilis, as the pepper oils can remain on hands long after washing and can easily burn eyes (or other sensitive body parts!). Slice off the stem end of the pepper, then cut it into quarters lengthwise. Use your knife to remove the pith and seeds before finely chopping and adding to the fruit in the mixing bowl.

Add the remaining ingredients and mix well. Season to taste with additional salt or honey. Excellent served with scallops, shrimp, chicken or pork.

Orange and beet salad
3 medium red beets, well scrubbed
3 oranges
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
1 teaspoon honey or sugar
4 tablespoons good quality extra virgin olive oil, divided
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
1 small shallot, finely minced
Salt and pepper to taste
5 ounces arugula
2 ounces fresh goat cheese
½ cup toasted walnuts

Place the beets on a large piece of aluminum foil and drizzle with 1 tablespoon of olive oil. Wrap up the beets in the foil to make a parcel and place on a baking sheet. Bake in a preheated 350-degree oven for about one hour, until beets are tender. When beets are cool enough to handle, use a paper towel to rub off the skin. Cut the beets into thin wedges, then sprinkle with salt and a dash of balsamic vinegar. It is important to season the beets while they are still slightly warm to allow them to fully absorb the seasoning.

Slice the top and bottom off the oranges and use a knife to remove the peel and pith, following along the natural curve of the fruit. Cut the orange into quarters and slice off the strip of pith along the middle, then cut the quarters into thin wedges the same size as the beets.

Whisk together the remaining olive oil, balsamic vinegar, mustard, honey and minced shallot. Season to taste with salt and pepper.Place the arugula in a mixing bowl and toss with just enough of the vinaigrette to lightly coat the greens.

Arrange the arugula on a platter, then top with roasted beets and orange segments. Crumble the goat cheese over the top, then drizzle with the remaining vinaigrette. Scatter the toasted walnuts over the top and serve.

Seared shrimp and oranges
1 navel orange
1 blood orange
Salt and pepper, to taste
½ teaspoon cumin
1 pound peeled and deveined shrimp
1 tablespoon olive oil
¼ cup prepared orange juice
1 teaspoon sherry vinegar
2 tablespoons cold unsalted butter
1 tablespoon each chopped mint and parsley

Peel the oranges with a sharp knife and cut into thin wedges, reserving any juice. (If the oranges don’t release much juice, use ¼ cup prepared orange juice.)

Toss the shrimp with a pinch each of salt and pepper and the cumin.

Heat the olive oil in a nonreactive skillet over medium high heat. When the oil is shimmering, add the shrimp and cook until browned on one side, about 1-2 minutes. Turn the shrimp and cook 1-2 minutes more, or until cooked through. Transfer to a plate and keep warm.

Add the orange wedges to the skillet and cook until slightly brown and caramelized, then transfer them to the plate with the shrimp. Add the ¼ cup orange juice plus and reserved juice along with the teaspoon of vinegar to the skillet, making sure to scrape up any browned bits on the bottom of the skillet. When the vinegar and orange juice has reduced by half, remove from the heat and add the cold butter, swirling constantly with a whisk to emulsify it into the juice mixture. Add the shrimp and oranges and stir to coat with the sauce. Transfer to a serving platter, top with the chopped herbs, and serve.

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