ode to a citrus


Even though the habits of my eating lifestyle earn me the title of a vegetarian, you are more likely on any day of the year to find me holding a glossy green apple rather than a stubby carrot, greens still intact.

Don't get me wrong; I make entire meals on vegetables alone, sometimes completely and disproportionately void of any source of grains, legumes or significant protein. I could eat an entire bag of peas or cook down an large, leafy bunch of spinach and still lift my plate for seconds.

But were anyone in the world to offer me the choice between the sweetest of all bell peppers, the freshest florets of broccoli, the perfect over-roasted caramelization of brussels sprouts, and any variety of citrus fruits, well. I'm afraid you'd find my guilty arms full of grapefruits, satsumas, navel oranges, clementines, etc. 

A navel orange beside its perfectly contrasted counterpart, the blood orange.
Why? Because I looove them. I love them all. 

The interesting thing about winter time in the Garden State is that there aren't (ironically, despite our green thumb claims) many locally seasonal fruits from which to select. Apples and pears have found their waning points by now, and while the summer berries you may have frozen or made into jams are delicious in their own right, not many things beat the tart and unmistakable bite of a blood orange. (Admittedly, this is far from the most localized habit I could encourage, but somehow winter here translates to the season of Florida oranges, of which I am currently hoarding by the case-ful.) 

And while I'm sure that you or someone you know currently has a box of clementines sitting on their kitchen counter, their round bright little faces all bunched together in golden glory, perhaps you are looking for a new way or two to enjoy these coveted fruits. Here are a couple of noteworthy recipes to get you through the winter months with an appropriate (and hey, healthy!) natural sugar fix.

Pomegranate, Beet and Blood Orange Salad

The following salad recipe combines some of my favorite ingredients of all time, not only for their fantastic flavors, but for their undeniably beautiful colors. This dish makes for a bowl bursting with jewel tones and seasonal sweetness. It's perfect as a start or side to any winter meal (for a salty contrast, I find some crumbled feta or toasted pine nuts complement well), and if its natural sugar is just daring enough, perhaps even dessert.

Kale and Quinoa Citrus Salad

This genius collaboration of super foods is the perfect way to antiquate yourself with healthy fare that both sates your appetite and (can youuu believe it) tastes amazing. The rich avocado dressing keeps the meal feeling decadent without leaving your tummy rumbling for more. But hey, no one here is stopping you.

What prettier colors could you possibly find? 
Satsuma and Pomegranate Pavlovas

Ohhh, so you thought it was going to be all salads, did you? You'll learn soon enough that, to me, dessert is the most important meal of the day. The more often you can have it, the better. Still, rather than letting yourself have cake three (or four, or five) times a day, let this ballerina-based bite satisfy your sweet tooth a time or two. Pomegranate and citrus, always a winning combination, strike again. (Hint: a satsuma is a large, Japanese tangerine, known for its loose, easy-to-peel rind. If you can get your hands on some without eating them all, swell. If not, clementines or regular navels will do the trick.)

Candied Walnuts with Orange Zest (and, Dark Chocolate)

Though the recipe possibilities could take you around the world (literally) in all variety of tastes, this last suggestion is a simple and worthy final note. Being a vegetarian, while lending several positives, can often leave you hanging short in the protein-rich department. The only thing that should keep you from enjoying the nutritional benefits (protein included!) of these nuts, however, is a severe allergy or a high aversion to a perfectly balanced flavor combination. In which case, we can't be friends.

Oh, my darling, oh, my darling.
Despite these concoctions (and many, many more), let's make no mistake. The very best way to enjoy THE perfect orange, is to simply peel it, segment it, or perhaps cut it into the wedges we remember from soccer practice as a kid. Or, you know, yesterday, shin guards not included. The glorious and captivating color, that unmistakably fresh scent, the tart, tangy flavor. It's the bright spot to any dish, and the highlight of the (Jersey) winter season.