Citrus fruits add bright flavors to fall feasts

November 12, 2021

As much as I love Thanksgiving and the expansive spread of tasty dishes, I think my menu-planning skills are in a bit of a rut. Each year, we have roast turkey and the same set of side dishes, most of which are loaded with carbohydrates and more butter than we would usually consume in a month’s time. Although I’m not willing to eliminate tradition, I will try to make some changes.

From the start, we will replace hors d’oeuvres like stuffed celery, nuts, cheese, creamy dip and spiced olives with a fresh citrus salad (see photo). Most times, when the nibbles appear we start eating because we’ve become ravenous, tempted by the aromas of turkey roasting for hours. Those high-fat appetizers aren’t going to leave much room for the main attraction, so the switch to a salad seems like a good idea.

It’s also the right time of year to enjoy citrus fruit, most varieties of which become widely available from late October through early spring. You certainly see groceries and supermarkets carry oranges throughout the year, but this is when they’re at their peak, and now is the time for special varieties like blood oranges, which will add bright colors and lovely flavors to your dish.

Citrus fruits appear in a wide range of colors, with flesh that is sometimes a surprising shade compared to its skin. For example, blood oranges and navel oranges have similar skin color, but the flesh of a blood orange is deep red. What gives them this color is the presence of antioxidants known as anthocyanins, notable for their ability to reduce damage from free radicals.

The flavor of a blood orange is slightly different from a navel or Valencia, with a slight tartness and hints of raspberry. In recipes, the blood orange is a standout for its unique color and juicy fruit, perfect for desserts, sauces and salads. If you haven’t yet had this fruit, you’re not alone; they’ve only become more well-known within the past few years, especially on artisanal cocktail menus.

Citrus fruits have been around for millennia, but this variety didn’t make its way to Europe until the 16th century, where it has been widely cultivated in Italy. Scientists who researched the genetic reason for its deep-red color found it is a result of sharp temperature differences in late fall, where the daytimes are still warm and nights are quite cold.

You may sometimes hear blood oranges called Sicilian, because the climate in that part of Italy near Mount Etna is ideal. In addition, the fertile volcanic soil provides an excellent environment for the orange groves to thrive. And, if you find yourself in the region of Catania during the month of February, you’ll be able to attend a Blood Orange Festival to sample all sorts of food and beverages made with the local crop.

Another town in the region has a different approach to its orange festival, forming two teams of players who throw the oranges at each other. Since it would be such a shame to waste a beautiful blood orange as a projectile, I suggest making one of these three salad recipes instead.

Citrus Salad

1 blood orange

1 pink grapefruit

1 navel orange

sea salt

2 T olive oil

1 T rice wine vinegar

1/2 t honey

1 T lemon juice

pinch lemon zest


Peel citrus, removing as much pith as possible. Slice into wheels and then in halves, removing any pits. Layer fruit on a serving platter and sprinkle with salt. Whisk together oil, vinegar, honey, lemon juice and zest until emulsified. Drizzle over salad and finish with a few grinds of fresh pepper. Yield: 4 servings.

Blood Orange Onion Salad

4 blood oranges

1 small red onion

salt and pepper

3 T olive oil

pinch red pepper flakes (optional)

Peel oranges, removing pith with a paring knife. Cut oranges into 1/4-inch-thick slices and arrange on a serving platter. Peel and thinly slice red onion and scatter over orange slices. Season with salt and freshly cracked black pepper. Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with red pepper flakes (if using). Yield: 4 servings.

Arugula & Blood Orange Salad

2 C arugula

2 blood oranges

1/4 C pine nuts

1/3 C blood orange juice

1 T red wine vinegar

1/4 C olive oil

1 t Dijon mustard

1/2 C crumbled gorgonzola

Rinse and dry the arugula, and place in a serving bowl. Peel the oranges and cut into segments; set aside. Toast the pine nuts in a dry skillet until fragrant and lightly browned; set aside. Whisk together juice, vinegar, oil and mustard until emulsified. Drizzle most of the dressing over the arugula; toss to coat the leaves. Scatter the orange sections, pine nuts, and cheese over the salad. Add the remaining dressing and serve. Yield: 2 servings.



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