In Sicily at this time of the year, the cool mountain nights are breeding grounds for the crimson-fleshed blood orange; the hallmark of Sicilian fruit. The first blood orange appeared on the Italian island roughly 350 years ago as a natural mutation from a sweet orange fruit and earned its nickname from its ruby interior.
The three blood orange varieties, Tarocco, Moro and Sanguinello, can be traced to the hilly areas and plains surrounding Mount Etna. The region has temperatures that range from intense daylight to frigid temperatures at night, with modest rainfall and rich soil. The combination of these factors results in a Sicilian blood orange that has incomparable sweetness and distinguishable color.
Although native to Sicily, blood oranges are now cultivated in the United States as well. They can be found in California and are in season from November to May. Since it is blood orange season in both Italy and the United States, now is the perfect time to take advantage of this typical Sicilian fruit simply bursting with flavor.
While I am in Florida, I find many of the blood oranges and juice them – they are so sweet and delicious. Sometimes I combine them with Florida oranges and use them for cocktails such as the recipe below.
Whether I mix the juice with a fish dish or a chicken dish, it gives them a bit of pizazz! Look for them in your local supermarkets this month. ‘til next week, Ciao and happy cooking.
Black Bass with Charred Fennel and Blood Oranges
Prep Time: 15 min Cook Time: 35 min Serves 4
2 fennel bulbs
4 pieces, cleaned bass or other mild, flaky fish (about ¼ pounds each)
3 tablespoons plus 4 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil, more for drizzling
1 teaspoon coarse salt
Black pepper, as needed
1 blood orange, thinly sliced
2 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
Heat oven to 450 degrees. Line a large, rimmed baking sheet with foil; have ready a second rimmed baking sheet.
Trim the tops from the fennel bulbs and discard the stalks. Remove the outer layers of the fennel and halve each bulb through the root end. Slice each bulb and one of the limes, then quarter the other. Drizzle olive oil on the fennel and broil before serving the dish for about 10 minutes to char a bit. Add a few olives at the end.
Pat each fish dry and coat each lightly with a teaspoon of oil. Generously season fish inside and outside with salt, pepper and chives. Transfer fish to the foil-lined baking sheet with the lime, oranges and garlic on top.
Transfer fish to the oven and bake fish until it is just opaque, 15 to 20 minutes. Serve fish drizzled with more olive oil and squeeze fresh lime juice on top. Serve with fennel on top or alongside.
Blood Orange Roast Pork Loin
Prep Time: 20 min Cook time: 1 hr 10 min Serves 6
3 blood oranges
4 pounds boneless pork loin, rolled and tied
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
1 large onion, cut into 8 wedges
2 fresh rosemary sprigs, leaves stripped from stems, plus additional sprigs for garnish
½ cup dry Italian white wine
½ cup chicken broth
1 large garlic clove, pressed
Blood orange slices
Position rack in center of oven; preheat to 450°F. Using vegetable peeler, remove peel (orange part only) in strips from 3 blood oranges. Place pork in large roasting pan. Rub with 2 tablespoons olive oil; sprinkle with salt and pepper. Toss onion, orange peel and rosemary leaves with remaining 1 tablespoon oil in medium bowl; sprinkle with salt and pepper. Arrange onion mixture around pork. Roast until pork and onion are beginning to brown, about 25 minutes.
Meanwhile, squeeze enough juice from the oranges to measure ¾ cup; pour juice into small saucepan. Add wine, broth and garlic. Boil until reduced to 1 ¼ cups, about 7 minutes.
Add ½ cup orange juice mixture to roasting pan. Baste pork with pan juices. Reduce oven temperature to 350°F and continue roasting pork until thermometer inserted into thickest part of pork registers 150°F. Baste often, adding more orange juice mixture as needed, about 30 minutes longer.
Place roasting pan over medium-high heat; add remaining ¾ cup orange juice mixture to pan. Boil until slightly thickened, about 3 minutes. Remove strings from roast. Slice pork; place on platter. Pour sauce and onion mixture over and around pork. Garnish with rosemary sprigs and orange slices.
Chicken Breasts with Sicilian Orange Glaze
Prep Time: 10 min Cook Time: 45 min Serves 4
For the Glaze:
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
4 cloves garlic, finely chopped
2 to 3 sprigs fresh rosemary, leaves stripped and finely chopped
For the glaze: Heat the olive oil in a small pot over medium to medium-high heat. Add the garlic, rosemary and chili pepper, and stir for a few minutes. Add the wine and cook until reduced to 3 to 4 tablespoons, about 2 minutes. Peel the zest from the orange in strips and add to the pot. Stir in the chicken stock and honey, then cook at a low simmer until reduced to about ½ cup, about 20 minutes. Let cool.
For the marinade: Put the onion, salt, garlic, rosemary, lemons and 4 cups water in a large plastic container. Add the chicken and refrigerate for up to a 1/2 day.
Heat a grill pan, griddle or cast-iron skillet over medium-high heat. Remove the chicken from the marinade and pat dry. Drizzle or brush the chicken with olive oil, then cook, turning occasionally, until the chicken is cooked through, about 15 minutes. Meanwhile, gently warm the glaze. Baste the chicken with the glaze during the last 5 minutes of cooking.
Sicilian Inspired Blood Orange Salad
When is Sicily in 2019, I sampled this fresh citrus salad with beautiful blood oranges.
6 blood oranges
¼ large red onion cut as thin as you can
1 bunch mint leaves (torn)
½ cup goat cheese
2 bunches of arugula
½ cup red wine vinegar
½ cup extra virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon pignoli nuts
1/3 cup pistachio nuts, lightly crushed
salt & pepper to taste
Assemble all the fruit segments in a large bowl and mix in the onions and set aside.
In a small skillet heat the oil on medium flame and add pignoli nits. Cook until nuts toast. Add vinegar to pan and mix, Season with salt and pepper to taste, then mix in arugula and pistachios.
When plating the salad, top with mint and more pistachio nuts. Crumble the goat cheese across the top.
**M’s note: You can always add or take away what you don’t like. You can substitute different cheese if you prefer. Pistachio nuts are purely Sicilian and I would not change them.
Blood Orange Negroni
blood orange juice
Mix equal parts of the vodka, Campari and vermouth. Add the blood orange juice to taste and mix well. Add ice cubes and serve. Very citrusy…refreshing.
Blood Orange Spritz
1 ½ oz Aperol
1 ½ oz fresh blood orange juice
Mix all the above ingredients well. Serve over ice and garnish with orange slice and mint leaves
Blood Orange Almond Cake
Prep Time: 20 min Cook Time: 3 hrs Serves 10
6 medium blood oranges
1 ¾ cups almond meal or almond flour
½ cup all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
6 large eggs
2 cups sugar
Place the whole, unpeeled blood oranges into a large saucepan and cover with water. Bring the water to a boil, then reduce the heat to a simmer and cook for 1 ½ hours. Remove the oranges from the water and allow to cool.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees and lightly grease and flour a 9-inch spring-form pan.
Once cooled, cut the oranges into halves, discarding any seeds. Place 7 orange halves into a food processor and pulse until pureed with small pieces still visible. Measure out 3 cups of the orange puree and set aside.
In a small bowl, mix together the almond meal, flour, baking powder and salt.
In another bowl, beat the eggs with one cup of the sugar until light and fluffy. Add the orange puree and stir into the egg mixture, then stir in the flour mixture just until combined. Pour the batter into the prepared pan and bake for about 50 to 55 minutes or until cooked through.
While the cake is baking, prepare the topping by chopping the remaining orange halves into small pieces. Add the remaining cup of sugar along with ¾ cup of water to a saucepan and bring to a boil. Stir well to dissolve the sugar, then add the chopped oranges. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to medium and cook for about 20 minutes or until thickened. Use a wand mixer to blend half the orange mixture and set aside to cool.
Once the cake has cooled, turn it onto a cake platter and spoon the topping mixture over the cake, leaving a 1 inch border of cake exposed. Cut into wedges and serve.