and Beet Salad showcases alluring varieties of citrus
including Blood Oranges and Cara Cara Oranges --
Pummelo segments are optional.
away the wrapping — the fragrant prize inside is worth the
work. Citrus fruits are vibrant gems, their juice-packed
segments tidily arranged like spokes of a wheel. Bound in
sunlit peels, the flavors and visual possibilities seem
endless. Many supermarkets and farmers markets sell more
varieties of citrus than ever before, showing off piles of
behemoth pomelos, red-blushed blood oranges and Cara Cara
oranges with bright, salmon-colored interiors. There are
containers of kumquats, too.
know the just-right acidity that citrus can bring to dishes.
Whether the fruit is added in segments, peeled slices or as
a smidgen of juice, it can cure taste bud boredom.
Foods and Asian groceries are generally good sources for
an introduction to a few extraordinary varieties.
orange: Imagine oranges that aren’t orange. Their flesh is
a shocking purplish-red. OK, blood-red. They are sweet, with
an irresistible raspberry-like flavor, generally seedless.
More glory than gory. These stunners provide color and
flavor drama, too. They can be eaten out of hand, turned
into marmalade or squeezed into fabulous wake-up-red juice.
Try them in cocktails such as mimosas (sparkling wine mixed
with blood orange juice).
Cara orange: A cross between two navels discovered in the
mid-’70s at the Hacienda de Cara Cara in Venezuela, now
most are California-grown. Sampled next to traditional navel
oranges, both are seedless and have similar outside color,
but inside the Cara Cara’s flesh is a splendid, deep
salmon hue. It is slightly sweeter and less acidic and edged
with a hint of blackberry and sweet cherry.
Picture a citrus fruit that’s almost as big as a
volleyball; that’s the pomelo. It’s an ancestor to the
grapefruit that is wildly popular in Asian cuisines. It
ranges in flavor from tangy with a slightly tart edge to
spicy-sweet. The thick, soft rinds vary in color: yellow,
yellow-brown, lime-green or pink. The
sweeter-than-grapefruit flesh also varies, from light yellow
to deep pink, from juicy to slightly dry. Generally, pomelos
are less juicy than grapefruit, so when cut into sections,
they hold their shape better. The rind is often candied and
found in fancy fruitcakes.
These beauties look like tiny round or oval oranges,
generally about 1 inch long. The entire fruit is edible, and
because the rind is sweet and the interior is tart, they are
like an inside-out orange. In Cantonese, kumquat translates
as "gold orange," a nod to the fruit’s role as a
symbol of prosperity. Although they can be thinly sliced,
seeded and used raw in green salads, I think they shine best
stunning salad makes a great impression served on a large
platter on a buffet table. The ingredients can be doubled
and it can be prepared several hours in advance, covered
with plastic wrap and refrigerated — making it a delicious
addition to a potluck gathering. If you don’t want to mess
with cooking and peeling the beets, ready-to-use steamed
beets are sold in the refrigerated deli at some supermarkets
and Trader Joe’s. Fresh blackberries can be added as a
AND BEET SALAD
medium red beets, tops trimmed 1 inch from bulb
medium golden beets, tops trimmed 1 inch from bulb
blood oranges, divided use
peeled segments of 1/4 pomelo
tablespoon fresh lemon juice
small fennel bulb, very thinly sliced crosswise
red onion, very thinly sliced
extra-virgin olive oil
sea salt, such as fleur de sel or Maldon sea salt
ground black pepper
cup loosely packed fresh cilantro and/or Italian parsley
beets, preheat oven to 400 degrees. Wash beets, leaving some
water on skins. Divide and enclose in 2 separate aluminum
foil packets; place on rimmed baking sheet and roast until
beets are tender when pierced with a knife, about 1 hour.
Meanwhile, using a sharp knife, cut all peel and white pith
from all citrus except 1 blood orange (cut top and bottom
off citrus, making those 2 cuts parallel to each other and
cutting just below white pith — place cut side down on
work surface and cut off peel and pith in strips starting at
the top, following the contour of the fruit). Cut remaining
blood orange in half and squeeze juice into small bowl or
cup. If using pomelo, cut the peeled fruit into segments
along the membranes.
Peel cooled beets and cut off stems. Slice 2 beets crosswise
into thin rounds. Cut remaining 2 beets into wedges. Layer
beets and oranges on plates or a platter, dividing evenly
(add pomelo segments if using). Arrange fennel and onion
over beets. Add lemon juice to blood orange juice; stir and
spoon over salad; drizzle salad generously with oil. Season
to taste with coarse sea salt and pepper (do this at the
last minute if making ahead). Let salad stand for 5 minutes
to allow flavors to meld or refrigerate up to 4 hours
covered with plastic wrap. Garnish salad with cilantro
and/or parsley leaves.
to serve this irresistible sauce atop grilled or broiled
pork chops or chicken thighs. It’s easy enough for a
weeknight dazzler, but delicious enough for company. Here I
serve the sauce-topped protein over raw spinach leaves for a
salady taste and texture, but if you prefer, saute the
spinach in a little olive oil and season with garlic salt.
tablespoon vegetable oil
medium shallots, thinly sliced
kumquats, washed, dried, thinly sliced crosswise, seeded
cup dried cranberries or dried cherries
cup white wine vinegar
teaspoon dried red pepper flakes
Heat oil in medium skillet on medium-high heat. Add shallots
and cook until starting to soften, about 4 minutes, stirring
occasionally. Add kumquats, sugar, water, cranberries,
vinegar and red pepper flakes. Bring to simmer, stirring
frequently until sugar dissolves and mixture thickens,
simmering about 8 to 10 minutes. Spoon over cooked chicken
or pork chops placed on a bed of cooked or raw baby spinach
baked custard is a delectable treat when augmented with
finely chopped kumquats. The rich mixture balances perfectly
with the small amount of tangy citrus. For dessert top them
with a smidgen of whipped cream and ground cinnamon. Serve
them plain as a fast breakfast indulgence. Or use candied
sliced kumquats as garnish (in small skillet, place 1
tablespoon sugar and 1 1/2 tablespoons water; place on
medium-high heat and simmer until sugar dissolves, and then
add 3 sliced and seeded kumquats — simmer until liquid
kumquats, washed, dried
cups milk (whole or 2 percent)
cup granulated sugar
teaspoons vanilla extract
Adjust oven rack to middle position. Preheat to 350 degrees.
kumquats in lengthwise quarters. Use small pointed knife to
pluck out seeds and finely chop. Set aside.
Place milk in large, heavy-bottomed saucepan. Scald milk on
medium-high heat. To scald means to heat milk just below the
boiling point. Remove from heat.
large bowl, whisk eggs, sugar, salt and vanilla to combine.
Whisking constantly, add hot milk little by little in a thin
stream to egg mixture. If you add the hot milk too quickly,
it might curdle eggs. Stir in kumquats.
Ladle mixture into 6 (1-cup) custard cups. Place cups in
9-by-13-inch baking pan. Add enough hot water to the pan to
come 1 inch up the sides of the cups. Place in oven and bake
40 minutes or until set and knife inserted in center comes
out clean. Serve warm or chilled.
"Melissa’s Great Book of Produce" by Cathy
Thomas (Wiley, $29.95)