Nothing speaks winter seasonality and freshness like citrus. Although not native to our Oklahoma horticulture business, you can find beautiful citrus from California and Florida right now. No other time of year can you taste the peak freshness of these inexpensive colorful fruits and discover the endless uses of citrus in your kitchen.
With so many types and varieties within this exciting fruit group, it’s easy to get lost in the abundance of selection and keep them all straight. There are your basics: oranges, lemons, limes and grapefruits. Interestingly enough though, as you get into the prime season for citrus, other more unusual varieties start to show up in the grocery store. In prime season you can also seek out pomelos (a large green and pink flesh citrus that looks similar to a grapefruit but has a more mild flavor), citron (also known as Budah’s hand), blood oranges and my favorite hybrid meyer lemon.
From a culinary standpoint there is nothing that speaks freshness like citrus. It’s used to brighten up vinaigrettes and add just the right pizzazz to fruit pies and compotes. Chefs prize the zest of most citrus and home cooks keep bowls of these beauties on their counters year-round.
In my house we enjoy eating oranges, mandarins, tangelos (a hybrid between tangerines and a pomelo) and the ever popular “cuties” brand tangerines whole. They are easy to take on the go and so refreshing. Kids adore citrus and nothing fights a flu or cold like the good ole’ standby of OJ.
I love to cook with citrus and find it’s a great way to get my kids in the kitchen. Their color, aroma and sweet-n-sour delight keep the kids attention and their shape lends itself to easy “squeezing”.
On a recent trip to California the family and I stopped at an amazing citrus farm hear Bakersfield, CA. Check out their website . They had tastings of every citrus you can imagine and the whole property is focused on kids, farming and fun. We also had an opportunity to visit Chinatown! The experience alone was amazing and I’ll save the details for another post. There was literally fresh unusual citrus at every market store. I tried to purchase a kumquat tree but was discouraged by the vendors due to the laws that prohibit live citrus trees from being transported across the California border. When I offered to purchase they would say “no no, black market” and smile. I got the hint and settled for taking a picture instead.
From an educational stand point citrus provides a rainbow of interesting and nutritious information. My favorite website for citrus education is a learning series provided by The Culinary Institute of America’s Pro Chef site titled Citrus Celebre. It’s a collaboration of the CIA and Sunkist. You will love the citrus wheel, recipes, demos and over-all insight to the citrus world. Here is the link. Citrus!
Here are a few of my favorite recipes with citrus. They are simple, kid-friendly and sure to create fun winter memories in your kitchen.
Easy Meyer Lemon Curd:
Yield Approx. – 2 Cups of Curd
1 cup of sugar (non-bleached)
1 stick of butter
1/2 cup of meyer lemon juice
1 tbsp meyer lemon zest
In small sauce pan combine all ingredients and using wooden spoon stir until simmer. Simmer for 5-7 minutes until mixture is thick and smooth.
Cool and serve with as a parfait with whipped cream and purchased lemon cookie crumble or fresh berries and angel food cake.
Spicy Orange Vinaigrette:
Yield – 1 Cup of Vinaigrette
1/2 cup of fresh orange juice
zest of 1 orange
1/4 cup of honey
3 Tbsp of dijon mustard
1 cup of olive oil (regular or pomace not extra virgin)
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper (can substitute paprika if desired)
kosher salt and black pepper to taste
In a medium bowl whisk together orange juice, honey and dijon together. Slowly incorporate olive oil in small amounts whisking rapidly to incorporate. Add cayenne pepper and season with salt and pepper to taste.
*Serve with arugula, spring mix, baby spinach or any other lettuce/greens. Also makes great dipping sauce for chicken or pork.
1 cup of mandarin oranges segments (fresh if possible)
1 small red onion sliced
1/2 cup of Feta cheese crumbled
1/2 cup of sliced almonds toasted
4-6 cups of fresh spinach or romaine lettuce washed
1/2 cup real mayo
1/4 cup of sugar (non-bleached)
1/4 cup of milk or milk substitute
2 Tbsp white vinegar
1 Tbsp poppy seeds
1/4 tsp kosher salt
For dressing, combine all ingredients and stir until smooth. Let sit for 30 minutes to develop flavor and allow for seeds to soften.
In a large bowl combine salad greens, oranges, onion, cheese and almonds. Drizzle dressing over salad and top with toasted almonds.
Add more orange segments if desired.
*Could also substitute any citrus segments or combination of citrus for a variety of flavors and colors.
Homemade Orange Julius
Yield 6 Portions
3 cups high pulp orange juice (could be fresh squeezed)
2 cups whole milk (also works well with almond or coconut milk)
3/4 cup powdered sugar
3 Tbsp meringue powder
1 Tbsp vanilla extract
1 cup of ice
Combine all ingredients into a blender and blend until smooth.