Simple Art of Cooking: Savoring Blood Oranges

Back in December a friend called to ask me where she could buy blood oranges, the zesty, full-bodied beauty of the citrus family. While blood oranges may be available in December, more than likely they will not show up until February or March. Blood oranges can be used and enjoyed in any way that you would use sweet oranges.

While supermarket produce sections are ablaze with a variety of juice oranges, navels, tangelos and other citrus varieties, blood oranges are going to be pricier, so reserve them for dishes where their deep red color and flavor can be admired.

Blood orange segments, bursting with juice, are added to an orange juice reduction, Dijon mustard and a bit of honey, then combined with sautéed fennel, one of my favorite winter vegetables. I cooked the fennel until deliciously tender then combined it with the orange compote to serve over seared slabs of fresh tuna. The distinct flavors of sweet, salty and slightly acidic emerged to create a memorable taste.

The sweet, rich citrus flavor of blood oranges lend themselves perfectly to a dessert of caramelized orange slices to serve alone or to garnish a creamy ice cream.

Select blood oranges as you would any orange or grapefruit; they should feel heavy for their size. Blood oranges are a very good source of vitamin C and should be stored in the refrigerator. If blood oranges are not available in your market and you have a yen to prepare the following, navel oranges may be substituted.


Seared Tuna with Blood Orange -Fennel Glaze

This colorful dish of seared tuna, caramelized fennel and rich, full-bodied blood orange segments is zesty enough to ward off the winter blahs.

Serves 6

For the fennel

1 large bulb fennel, trimmed and thinly sliced

1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil

2 to 3 tablespoons water

Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

For the glaze

1 cup fresh blood orange juice

1 tablespoon Dijon mustard

1 teaspoon honey

Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

1 to 2 tablespoons finely chopped parsley

For the tuna

6 tuna fillets, about 5-6 ounces each

2 to 3 tablespoons fresh lime juice

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper

Parsley sprigs for garnish (optional)

1. Discard any hard or bruised outer layers of the fennel bulb. Cut in half lengthwise; remove the core then cut into julienne strips between 1/4 and 1/2 inch wide. Rinse and pat fennel dry with paper towels. Heat oil in a large skillet over medium heat and add the fennel. Sauté the pieces, turning to brown lightly on all sides. Add water and season with salt and pepper. Cover the pan and cook over low heat for 6 to 8 minutes, stirring occasionally or until fennel is tender and water evaporates. Set aside.

2. Pour orange juice into a small saucepan, whisk in mustard, honey, salt and pepper to taste and simmer briskly, over medium heat, until reduced to a syrupy glaze, about 8 to 10 minutes. Watch reduction carefully being careful not to scorch. Sauce can be prepared up to several hours ahead to this point. Set aside.

3. About 20 minutes before serving, marinate the tuna fillets with lime juice and olive oil. Heat a sauté or grill pan over high heat. Adjust heat to medium-high and put in the tuna.

Cook about 1 ½ to 2 minutes on each side for rare to medium-rare. Season with salt and pepper, let cool slightly and with a sharp knife, cut thin slices across the grain.

Remove from heat. Meanwhile, separately warm the fennel the blood orange glaze.

4. Divide and center fennel mixture on 6 plates. Arrange overlapping slices of tuna around the fennel, spoon over a coating of the glaze, garnish with sprigs of parsley and serve.


Caramelized Blood Oranges

Dinner in Chinese restaurants usually ends with a complimentary serving of orange wedges. Blood oranges blanched in a sugar syrup bring it to another level. Prepare this appealing dessert with blood oranges, which are currently available in local markets

Serves 6

6 blood oranges

Julienne strips of orange rind

1 1/2 cups water

1/2 cup sugar

2 teaspoons lemon juice

Toasted slivered almonds for garnish

Vanilla ice cream, optional

1. Peel rind of 2 oranges and cut into julienne strips. Set aside. Juice one of the oranges and set aside.

2. With a sharp serrated knife, slice off the top and bottom of remaining oranges, including the one used to cut julienne strips. Stand the fruit up and remove the skin and pith (white membrane) following the contour of the orange. Slice into rounds approximately 1/2-inch thick and place in a glass serving bowl. Pour reserved juice over the orange slices.

3. In a saucepan, combine water, sugar and lemon juice. Stir to dissolve sugar as the mixture comes to a boil. Cook at a brisk simmer over medium heat for 10 to 12 minutes, until liquid is a thin syrup. Add julienne strips and caramelize over very low heat for 2 to 3 minutes longer and remove from heat.

4. Pour candied orange peel over orange slices. Cool and refrigerate and cover with plastic wrap. Prepare up to one day ahead.

5. When ready to serve, sprinkle over slivered almonds, if desired. Serve with a scoop of good quality vanilla ice cream, if desired.

Visit Silvia’s website at to read her blogs and more recipes.

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