Blood Orange: A Surprising Citrus Treat

I love citrus fruit in winter. Something about the cold dark winter days makes me crave the bright colors and tastes of citrus. Mandarins and grapefruit have been consistently in the grocery cart, and no matter how many I buy, this household of six consumes them within a couple days. But today the store had Moro blood oranges. They are only available for a short time here in Northern Michigan. So in honor of the first day they have been at my local grocery store, I am preparing a blood orange meal. Blood oranges in every course. And, its Valentine’s Day, so why not have a little extra red and purple in the meal?

Blood oranges are similar to other oranges. But instead of all orange in color, they have a hint of purple on the outside and are a deep purplish red color on the inside. The juice is bright red. Some say they are a tad sweeter than a regular orange with a raspberry flavor. My kids thought a tad more bitter when cooked. A nice citrus flavor, but we didn’t taste the raspberry overtone. (Maybe if we could pick them off our own tree, we would get the subtle flavors too.)

Why eat the blood orange?

Well, besides being beautiful and tasty, blood oranges are higher in vitamin C and anthocyanin flavonoids than other sweet oranges. The anthocyanins are the flavonoids that give the red and purple colors to the food. According to research published in the Journal of Biomedicine and Biotechnology they are antioxidant, anti-cancer growth, and anti inflammatory among other health benefits.

So, for the health, and the beauty of the blood orange, the whole family pitched in and prepared the following dinner. Blood orange coconut pollock, roasted asparagus and blood orange salad with a blood orange vinagrette, and for dessert, blood orange pavlova with blackberries and dark chocolate.

Blood Orange Coconut Pollock 

* 4-6 pollock fillets

* 1 can coconut milk

* 2 blood oranges (1 to zest and juice. The other to slice)

* Sea salt

* chili powder

* fresh chopped or pressed garlic

* cilantro for garnish

* rice to serve with. We used a rice mix containing red Thai rice, white rice, brown rice and wild rice.( I was hoping to find black japonica rice, but my store doesn’t sell it.)

In a glass baking dish place pollock fillets. Pour one can of coconut milk over pollock. Make sure that coconut milk is warm enough that the milk will pour smoothly without clumps of hardened coconut cream. Zest one blood orange over fish, then squeeze juice of same blood orange over fish.  Sprinkle with sea salt, chili powder and chopped fresh garlic. Spice heavily before cooking, or plan on seasoning after because the coconut milk mellows out the flavor.  Place slices of blood orange on top of fish and place fish in 400°F oven. Bake for 30 minutes. Remove from oven and garnish with fresh cilantro. Serve over rice. Thicken remaining coconut milk from pan with a little corn starch to make a sauce if desired.

Roasted Asparagus and Blood Orange Salad with Blood Orange Vinagrette

* 1 shallot peeled and sliced thin

* 1 small head of red romaine and 1 small head of green romaine lettuce

* 1 pound asparagus

* Olive oil

* sea salt

* 1 blood orange peeled and cut into thin sliced rounds

* 2-4 ounces goat cheese

Cut asparagus in half and place asparagus on baking sheet. Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with sea salt. Roast asparagus for 20 minutes in 400°F oven. Turn and roast another 20 minutes. Remove from oven.

While asparagus is roasting, peel and slice blood orange into thin slices, and make the vinagrette.

Blood Orange Vinagrette 

* 1 blood orange for zest and juice

* 1 clove garlic finely chopped or pressed

* 1/4 cup olive oil

* 1 Tbsp lemon juice

* salt and pepper

Zest the blood orange and place zest in 1 cup jar with lid. (8 oz canning jar works nicely). Juice the blood orange and add juice to the jar. This will be about 1/4 cup juice.Add garlic, olive oil, lemon juice, salt and pepper. Put lid on jar and shake vigorously until vinaigrette is well mixed.

Once all ingredients are ready, place a mix of Romaine lettuces onto salad plate. Add sliced shallots. Top with roasted asparagus, blood orange slices and goat cheese crumbles. Drizzle with blood orange vinaigrette.

Blood Orange Pavlova with Blackberries and Dark Chocolate

* 3 blood oranges peeled and cut into pieces mixed with a little honey.

* 1 cup blackberries

* 1/4 cup dark chocolate to melt

* 1 pint heavy whipping cream beat with blender until desired consistency of whipping cream is achieved. Add honey or maple syrup to sweeten if desired. (Pavlova is very sweet, so an unsweetened whip cream is very nice with this recipe)

* 4 egg whites

* 1 1/4 cups sugar

* 1/4 tsp cream of tartar

* 1 tsp vanilla

* 1 tsp lemon juice

* 1 tsp corn starch

Beat egg whites and cream of tartar until stiff peaks form. Add in sugar slowly while continuing to beat with mixer. Once thick and glossy peaks form, mix in lemon juice, vanilla and corn starch. Spread mix into a 9 or 10 inch circle on foil or parchment covered baking sheet. Place baking sheet on bottom rack of oven. Bake at 300°F for 1 hour. Heat can be decreased to 275°F if needed to avoid browning the pavlova. Turn oven off and let cool in oven.

Top cooled pavlova with whipped cream, then honeyed blood oranges and blackberries. Drizzle with melted dark chocolate. If you are avoiding sugar, skip the pavlova and just put the fruit on top of the unsweetened whipped cream. Just as delicious without the sugar.

Mmm! It was so delicious from the fish all the way to the pavlova. I think my favorite was probably the salad. Another proof that I am craving spring time. Blood oranges and the myriad of colorful citrus will help me to get there.

Next I think I will try a Pummelo, or an Ugli fruit. They only show up briefly at the stores here too. If you have a citrus suggestion to help me get through the winter, or want to tell us how you tried the blood orange, please share with us in the comment section below.

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