Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Do Vampires Drink Blood Orange Juice?

This question about vampires popped into my head as I was squeezing out my morning glass. Blood orange season is at its peak here, and these noble orbs from Sicily dominate every fruit stand in Italy. When the season begins just after Christmas, I start buying oranges for juice. At first, they look like any orange when you cut into them—they’re orange. But as the season progresses, a little tinge of red appears. It  resembles a drop of blood in a basin of water the way it appears to spread across the orange pulp.

At the beginning of the season, when the pulp is more orange than red, the juice acquires a rosy glow. As the season waxes, the red pulp overtakes the orange and the juice becomes redder and redder. It’s on the wane now, and the red is diminishing each day. At this point, a bag of oranges is like Forrest Gump’s box of chocolate: you never know what you’re going to get. This morning, for example, the first orange I cut into had barely any red at all. The second one was mahogany. But the juice was a rich rose, and the taste exquisite.

At this time of year, oranges dominate our menus, too. A couple of weeks ago, I unearthed a duck breast from my freezer (part of a duck I’d bought a few months ago and cut into individual portions). I saut├ęd it with a little garlic, adding blood orange juice to cook a sauce, and finally the orange sections at the last minute. Delicious!

But blood oranges are eaten fresh more often than cooked. One of my favorite ways of eating them is in a salad with fennel and black olives. It’s simple, tasty, and can be made with any type of oranges, but blood ones add a beautiful color.


(serves 2)
1 large fennel bulb
2-3 blood oranges (or regular oranges)
½ cup oil cured black olives
Extra virgin olive oil (to taste)
Black pepper (to taste)
   Wash the fennel and cut out the tough core. Slice very thinly. You can do this by hand or with your food processor blade. I use a little slicer available in markets here for around $8.
  Using a sharp knife, peel and cut out the orange sections from the pith.
    Arrange the fennel on a plate; place the oranges and olives evenly on top.
    Add a few grindings of black pepper. The olives are salty enough, so you won’t need salt.
    Drizzle on the olive oil.

Cultural note: The Italian translation of “to taste” is quanto basta which literally means “enough.” Italian recipes often have the abbreviation q.b. meaning “to taste.”


Kath said...

Oh, gosh. If vampires don't eat blood oranges after reading this blog, they're not as smart as they think. I'm drooling all over my keyboard.

Kaye George said...

You brought back memories of a trip we made to visit our Italian daughter (we housed her when she came to the US as an exchange student). Her sister would say, as we started to eat, "Basta, manga la pasta," and everyone would laugh. They said it meant shut up and eat. I see now it's a little more punny than that!

Heidi Noroozy said...

How very practical Italians are in their recipe instructions. "Enough" is right on the mark. "To taste" is a bit redundant. How else are you to tell whether there is enough of something if you don't taste it?

Patricia Winton said...

Kath, drooling on the keyboard is not a good thing. You could short something.

Patricia Winton said...

Kaye, basta is a wonderfully useful word. Parents scream it at their children when they mean, "Stop it." When you're buying something at a market stall and the clerk ask if there's anything else, you respond, "Basta cosi'" which means "That's all." I think "shut up and eat" is a good translation of "Basta, mangia la pasta."

Patricia Winton said...

Heidi, you're right of course, but I had trouble trying to understand it at first. When I'd ask what it meant, the response was ALWAYS, but "quanto basta."

Patricia Deuson said...

What a great recipe! I love blood oranges - used to drink blood orange juice myself when we lived in Egypt.

Is the 8$ slicer you mention a mandoline? How do you spell it in Italian?

Patricia Winton said...

Yes, it's called a mandolina in Italian. It's not like those huge, very expensive French ones, but it does the job.

Ellis Vidler said...

Your salad sounds delicious, and so does fresh juice. Wish we were neighbors and I could invite myself to dinner. Now I'll have to look for blood oranges. Maybe the Fresh Market, our local source for more exotic fruits and vegetables. Nice post.

Patricia Winton said...

Thanks, Ellis. The salad works well with regular oranges. The play on flavors is really good.