Ever spend an entire day, week or season wishing the sun would shine? When the dark days of winter descend, you don’t have to suffer and sulk. One of the simplest ways to satisfy your craving for winter sunshine is to stock up on the season’s freshest citrus fruits.
Don’t stop at orange juice! Resolve to expand your repertoire. Explore new ways to flavor fish, add pizzazz to poultry, vitalize cooked vegetables, add sizzle to salads, freshen fruits and make delicious drinks with the zest and juice of citrus fruits. Cut fat calories and add flair to your daily fare with fresh lemons, limes, oranges, tangerines, tangelos and grapefruits. (Oranges, tangerines, tangelos and their juices can be used interchangeably in most recipes.)
Fresh is Best
For the most satisfying experience, seek out freshly picked citrus fruits that matured on the tree. Fruit that spent time in a warehouse may have been washed with detergents, de-greened with ethylene gas to bring on an artificial yellow-orange color in immature flesh, coated with orange dye, and/or treated with antibacterial compounds to discourage spoilage and create an extra-long shelf life. To unhook from the mass-market food system and reconnect with Mother Nature, purchase from small regional growers who use only fresh water to clean their fruit before packaging, pick mature tree-ripened fruit grown without pesticides and ship fruit within 24 hours of it coming off the tree. Going local and organic will allow you to experience extraordinary citrus flavor, advises Bob McClendon of McClendon’s Select Citrus in Peoria, Arizona.
If you live in one the citrus belts — Arizona, California, Florida or Texas — check your local farmer’s markets for a home-based citrus grower. Otherwise, consider ordering a box of sunshine from the closest citrus state (see “Mail-Order Citrus Sources” on Page 51). Freshly shipped citrus fruit, free of preservatives, should be refrigerated on arrival and used within two to three weeks.
Extra fruit may be juiced and frozen for up to two years to savor in all four seasons. Juice by hand or use a citrus juicer — a handy, inexpensive gadget. Allow for expansion during freezing by filling containers only 80 percent full and leaving the lid loose or off until the juice has fully frozen.
Use the Zest Along with the Rest
Before you juice, rinse the fruit, pat dry, and remove the zest (colored part only; the white part imparts a bitter taste) with a microplane grater. Add zest to ice-cube trays and top with fresh juice from the same fruit. Freeze, then transfer the cubes to larger containers and date, then add to drinks or defrost for your favorite recipe. Alternatively, freeze the zest in tablespoon-size portions, enveloped in small squares of parchment paper and stacked in a sealable bag or pint canning jar. Add fresh or frozen citrus juice and/or zest to muffin, pancake, waffle and quick bread batters, cooked fruit compotes, chutney, relish, jam, jelly, pudding or dips, or use fresh zest to garnish cooked fish in a rich sauce. No matter how you slice it, the culinary contribution of freshly picked (or frozen) citrus fruits will brighten your days and lighten your meals.
Rachel Albert-Matesz is a Phoenix-based freelance food and health writer, cooking instructor and co-author of The Garden of Eating: A Produce-Dominated Diet & Cookbook (see Bookshelf, Page 55). For more information, visit www.TheGardenOfEatingDiet.com.
MASHED SWEET POTATOES WITH LIME
Makes 8 servings
Select small to medium-size sweet potatoes with firm, smooth, unblemished skin (jumbo tubers tend to be tough and mealy) and bake them until they’re tender and juicy for best results. Serve this citrus-spiked side dish with fish, poultry or pork and a crisp green salad or sautéed kale, collard greens or coleslaw. Prepare enough for a few days, then reheat close to serving time.
Juice and zest of 1/2 to 1 lime
6 medium to large sweet potatoes — try red garnet or jewel yams, or Beauregard or Japanese sweet potatoes
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
3 tablespoons flax oil or butter, optional
Rinse lime, pat dry, and finely grate lime zest (colored part of skin) with a microplane grater. Halve and juice lime and set aside. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Scrub and rinse sweet potatoes. Pat dry but do not peel. Remove rough, soft or black spots. Poke holes in each tuber in several spots with a skewer and arrange in a shallow baking pan with sides (line pan with unbleached parchment to ease cleanup). Do not cover or add water.
Bake for 1 hour or until soft when squeezed with oven mitts. If possible, turn sweet potatoes after 30 minutes so they bake evenly. When cool enough to handle, slip off the skins and discard. Mash or puree potatoes with lime juice, optional zest and pepper. Spoon into oiled heat-proof casserole and warm in a preheated 300-degree oven for 20 minutes before serving. Top individual portions with oil or butter, if desired. Refrigerate leftovers. Use within three days or freeze.
Makes 8 servings
This dip and dressing invites most people to take second helpings of vegetables. Try it with raw vegetables or a parboiled crudité plate, steamed broccoli and cauliflower, over coleslaw or a tossed green salad, or use it to replace mayonnaise or tartar sauce at the table.
1/2 to 3/4 teaspoon finely ground, unrefined sea salt
1/2 cup warm filtered water
1/2 cup raw or lightly toasted unsalted tahini
1/4 cup cold filtered water (omit for dip)
1/4 cup lemon juice, brown rice vinegar or 3 tablespoons raw apple cider vinegar
1/4 cup minced fresh scallions or 1 tablespoon dried onion flakes
2 teaspoons dried dill weed or 2 tablespoons minced fresh dill weed
2 teaspoons dried chives or 2 tablespoons minced fresh chives
1 teaspoon mustard, optional
2 garlic cloves, minced or pressed, optional
1/2 teaspoon lemon pepper, optional
Dissolve salt in warm water. Mix with tahini until smooth. Add remaining ingredients and blend until smooth. Pour into a wide-mouth jar. Cover and refrigerate for at least 4 hours, until thick, before serving. Add 2 to 4 tablespoons of water if too stiff. Use within two weeks or freeze.
PARBOILED SALAD/VEGETABLE MEDLEY
Makes 6 to 8 servings
This is the perfect make-ahead dish for sit-down dinners, potlucks or party trays paired with tahini- or peanut butter-based dips. Parboiling brings out a vibrant color. It reduces bitter flavors and makes vegetables more tender, tasty and digestible. As a result, people who don’t usually like raw broccoli, cauliflower or radishes often ask for seconds! Don’t leave out the salt; it’s essential for keeping more vitamins in the vegetables.
1/2 to 1 teaspoon unrefined sea salt
2 quarts filtered water
Additional filtered water and ice for chilling
1 medium onion, halved and cut into thin crescents (1 to 11/2 cups)
2 medium-large carrots, cut into thin rounds (about 1 1/2 to 2 cups)
1/2 small to medium cauliflower, cut into 1-inch florets, core trimmed and thinly sliced (3 cups)
1 bunch broccoli, stems peeled and thinly sliced, cut into 1-inch florets (5 to 6 cups)
1 bunch radishes, trimmed and cut into thin slices (about 2 cups)
Salt water, cover and bring to boil in a 3-quart pot over high heat. Submerge a pasta insert in at least 3 inches of water, or have a large skimmer handy. Wash vegetables, chop, and arrange in separate bowls. Fill a large bowl with ice and water. Cook vegetables, uncovered, 1 variety at a time, in this order: onions 30 to 60 seconds, carrots 1 to 2 minutes, cauliflower 2 to 3 minutes, broccoli 2 to 3 minutes, radishes 1 to 2 minutes. After cooking each vegetable, remove with a skimmer and plunge in ice water. Remove from cold water, drain and squeeze to remove excess moisture. Add more ice to bowl as needed. Let water return to a boil before cooking the next vegetable. Discard cooking water. Toss vegetables in a serving bowl, artfully arrange on platters, and serve with one or more dips and dressings. Refrigerate leftovers. Use within three days or freeze. Do not reheat.
POPPY SEED-ORANGE DRIZZLE
Makes 11 servings
This sweet sauce makes a dazzling topping for salad greens paired with fresh or dried fruit and shrimp, chicken, turkey breast or lean pork loin. Consider making a double batch for company or to last for two weeks.
4 cups freshly squeezed orange juice without pulp
1/2 teaspoon unrefined sea salt, optional
3 to 4 tablespoons poppy seeds
2 teaspoons minced fresh sage leaves or 3/4 teaspoon dried, rubbed sage, optional
1/4 teaspoon finely ground black pepper, optional
11/2 tablespoons arrowroot powder dissolved in 3 tablespoons cool or cold filtered water
1/2 cup extra-virgin flax oil or combination flax oil and unrefined sesame oil
3 drops vitamin E oil
1 teaspoon apple fiber powder, optional
1 tablespoon Dijon or yellow mustard, optional but delicious
Bring juice and optional salt to boil in shallow 2-quart saucepan. Add poppy seeds, sage and pepper. Reduce heat and cook, uncovered, over medium heat until thick and reduced by one-half, 45 to 60 minutes. Add dissolved arrowroot. Stir over medium-low heat until thick and clear, about 4 minutes. Cool at room temperature, or refrigerate for at least 1 to 2 hours, then whisk in remaining oil, vitamin E oil, optional apple fiber and mustard. Pour into bottles, label and refrigerate. Use within three weeks or freeze in canning jars with 1 inch of headspace.
MACADAMIA-ORANGE ROUGHY IN ORANGE & WHITE WINE REDUCTION SAUCE
Makes 6 servings
Orange juice and white wine infuse white-meat fish with an enticingly sweet sauce kids and picky eaters enjoy. Serve with Mashed Sweet Potatoes with Lime and a green salad with a creamy tahini dressing or a side of sautéed kale or collard greens.
2 pounds orange roughy fillets, about 1/2-inch thick (6 to 8 fillets)
1 cup orange juice or juice from blood oranges
1 cup dry white wine (Chardonnay, Fume Blanc, Sauvignon Blanc or Pinot Grigio)
2 bay leaves
1/2 teaspoon lemon pepper or white pepper
1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon salt
11/2 tablespoons minced fresh or 11/2 teaspoon dried, ground rosemary
1 tablespoon arrowroot starch dissolved in 2 tablespoons cold water or cold orange juice
1/2 small blood orange, cut into thin slices for garnish
1/4 to 1/2 cup coarsely chopped, lightly toasted, unsalted macadamia nuts
Rinse fish, pat dry, and set aside. Combine juice, wine, bay leaves, pepper, salt and herbs in a medium skillet. Cover and bring to low boil. Lower fish into bubbling juice, reduce heat to medium-low, cover and cook 4 minutes until top of fillets begin to turn opaque. Turn fish with a slotted spatula. Cook 3 to 4 minutes more until almost translucent inside and easily pierced with a fork, then transfer to a platter. Cook juices until reduced to about 1 cup. Add dissolved arrowroot, simmer, and stir until thick and clear. Spoon over fish, garnish with blood orange slices and nuts, and serve. Cover and refrigerate leftovers and use within two days.