Blood oranges add interesting flavor to various dishes

August 9, 2019

Although I'm a long-standing proponent of making dishes with real food, from time to time it seems so much easier to start with a boxed mix. Instead of assembling all the raw ingredients, followed by the hassle of measuring everything, you simply add an egg or water and you’re ready to go. That said, there are only a few places where I allow myself the luxury of convenience.

I try to avoid main-course or side-dish mixes, because they’re loaded with salt and preservatives. If you read the ingredients on a ground beef “helper,” you’ll need a pronunciation key and a dictionary to figure out the purpose of all those extra chemicals. The same is true for pasta- and rice-based boxed mixes, which use salt as the primary flavor enhancer. It’s also surprising to see how often sugars are added to what you’d expect to have only savory seasonings. You’ll find this in many soups, and tomato and Mexican sauces.

One box that I will turn to (despite its decadent nature) is Ghirardelli dark chocolate brownie mix. For some reason, my homemade brownies are never as good as the ones from this boxed mix, where they have mastered the exact combination of wet and dry ingredients to create the perfect brownie.

To make this mix even better, consider the substitution recommended by my friend Kary. She made the brownies in the photo with blood orange olive oil to replace the generic vegetable oil called for in the directions. The slightly sweet citrus notes enhance the depths of the rich dark chocolate.

Blood oranges are similar in appearance to navel oranges, but once you cut them open they’re very different. Instead of yellow-orange flesh, blood oranges are a vivid red color. This comes from compounds called anthocyanins, which are beneficial antioxidants found in other red, blue or purple fruits and vegetables.

Blood oranges originated in Sicily and Spain, and varieties include Tarocco, Moro (or Morro), and Sanguinello (or Sanguigno). Primarily grown in the Mediterranean region, they’re also cultivated in California. They are usually available in limited supply in gourmet groceries from December to May, because they need the cool night temperatures of autumn and winter to mature.

If you don’t have fresh blood oranges on hand, you can introduce their unique flavor with bottled puree or frozen (previously fresh-squeezed) juice. Unless you want a blood orange Margarita or martini cocktail, I’d stay away from the over-sweetened mixes which are typically diluted with other citrus juices.

You can also substitute blood orange olive oil in most places where vegetable oil or plain olive oil is specified; this will give your dish an interesting flavor profile. To feature fresh blood oranges in a variety of ways, I’ve included recipes for glazed salmon filet, pan-sautéed chicken thighs and a classic margarita featuring blood orange juice.

Blood Orange Glazed Salmon

1 lb salmon filet
2 T blood orange olive oil
1/4 t salt
1/4 t pepper
1 thinly sliced blood orange
1/2 C blood orange juice
1 T brown sugar
3 T soy sauce
1/4 t white pepper

Preheat oven to broil. Line a rimmed baking sheet with aluminum foil and brush with 1 T olive oil. Brush salmon with remaining 1 T olive oil, sprinkle with salt and pepper, and place in prepared pan. Arrange blood orange slices in a single layer on the salmon; set aside. Combine blood orange juice, brown sugar and soy sauce in a small saucepan. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer until reduced and slightly thickened, about 8 minutes. Pour sauce over salmon and broil until cooked through, about 10 to 15 minutes depending upon thickness. Yield: 3 to 4 servings.

Blood Orange Chicken Thighs

6 boneless chicken thighs
1 t salt
1/2 t pepper
1/2 t garlic powder
2 T blood orange olive oil
2 thinly sliced blood oranges
3 sprigs rosemary
1 sliced onion
1 1/2 C blood orange juice
1 C chicken broth
2 T honey
1 T chopped rosemary

Preheat oven to 425 F. Pat dry chicken and sprinkle with salt, pepper and garlic powder; set aside. Add olive oil to an oven-proof skillet and heat over medium. Add chicken pieces in a single layer and cook until browned, about 8 minutes. Turn over chicken pieces; top with blood orange slices and rosemary sprigs. Place in oven and roast for 20 minutes. Remove pan from oven and transfer chicken to serving platter; loosely tent with aluminum foil. Place skillet over medium heat and add onion. Cook until softened, scraping up any browned bits from the bottom of the pan. Add blood orange juice, broth, honey and rosemary. Simmer until reduced by half, about 8 minutes. To serve, ladle sauce and onions over chicken pieces. Yield: 3 servings.

Blood Orange Margarita

3 oz blood orange juice
3/4 oz lime juice
2 oz tequila
1 oz agave nectar

Rub the rim of a cocktail glass with blood orange rind. Dust with salt or sugar, if desired. Combine ingredients in an ice-filled cocktail shaker. Place two ice cubes in prepared glass and strain mixture into glass. Yield: 1 serving.

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