Blood oranges

{sweet, tart, tasting like berries, delicious}

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There is nothing like a blood orange. Some have a mottled skin with specks of raspberry red showing through; others have a deep vibrant blush on one side; still others are nearly identical in appearance to ordinary oranges. But cut one open and you will experience a sunset in front of your eyes, with flesh that can range from deep red to deep orange or a combination of the two. And the taste? Floral, berry-like, bold and deliciously tart. Grate some peel over your yogurt or fresh ricotta with honey and then squeeze the fruit for its festive juice. For a rosy glow and a refreshing take on a mimosa, pour some of the juice into the base of a champagne flute and then top with the bubbly, one part juice to three parts of the sparkling wine.

I think the first time I experienced one of these marvels was in Italy when thirty or more years ago I stayed at some pensione where breakfast was traditionally served as part of the tariff. And surprise of surprises, blood orange juice was the beverage which started out the bounteous buffet of cheeses, cured meats, breads, yogurt, fruit, coffee and tea. Here it was served, freshly squeezed and chilled in a carafe. What a marvel! A marvel followed by disappointment upon my return to the States where the fruits were nowhere to be found commercially grown, even in California where all manner of citrus fruits have been grown for years. Only in the last fifteen years or so have the Tarocco and Moro varieties been cultivated and brought to market reliably. Beyond the farmers markets in the winter months, some good supermarkets and Whole Foods are reliable sources for these special fruits.  If not available in your area, www.melissas.com is also a great source for specialty produce that will ship a stellar variety of locally grown, seasonally available citrus to your doorstep.

Whether giving the citrus edge to the buttery cake shown adjacent or simply adorning a winter fruit salad (apples, pears, other citrus and grapes), blood oranges are still a relative rarity of the season and hence not to be missed.

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