I used to hate when my mom put an orange in my lunch for school. Even when she scored the top for easy peeling, I still felt like I was getting juice all over my face and hands and what child wants to wash their hands after lunch (except my niece Delfina). I think for that reason oranges were never my favorite. And orange juice gives me a stomach ache in the morning (anyone else sensitive stomach friends?!). I ate the already peeled oranges at home, the clementines that don’t leave residue on your hands, and who doesn’t love a tangelo or mineola (also known as nipple oranges in our house) here and there?
Something happened I think when I was in Italy for my junior year in college. I don’t know what it was, because we had our fair share of delicious oranges at home in LA, but something happened. I ate blood oranges like they were going out of style. My American roommate in Italy asked me where I’d gotten my latest batch of oranges that I claimed were so delicious. She told me she got hers at the same place but they were awful. I asked her what was so awful and she responded that they were all brown and icky. I asked if she tasted them and she told me no because they looked like they’d gone bad. I told her that’s the color of the blood oranges here. She’d never heard of a blood orange and had thrown away orange after orange until I told her to just taste it.
I veer from my point. I do love oranges now. I still don’t pack them for lunch if I’m not going to be near a sink, but now with citrus season upon us, I have been experimenting with a few (GF and DF of course) recipes. For The Neighborhood Table I made an orange and fennel salad, with the fried calamari I made an aioli with orange zest instead of lemon juice, and the dessert was an almond orange cake.
Here is the salad (serves 6-8 as a starter)
1 bag fresh baby greens
10-12 black pitted olives
1 large fennel bulb, greens removed and reserved
3 sweet oranges
Slice the fennel very thinly and place in ice water until you’re ready to mix the salad. Tear apart some of the tender green fronds off the top and reserve for garnish. Compost the remaining green parts.
Supreming the segments: yep, you read right. The way my mom taught me to cut oranges for dishes like this is called supreming the segments. Slice off the top and bottom of the orange. Stand it on 1 end and then cut off the peel from every side. Then take a smaller knife and cut out the orange between the pith. you’ll have small wedges of oranges and a star-shaped remainder of pith in your hand that you can later squeeze over the salad.
Pour greens into a large bowl. Drain fennel and place on top, orange segments next, then the olives, and finally the torn fennel tops. Pour about 3 T of good extra virgin olive oil , a sprinkling of good salt (like fluer de sel) and pepper to taste. Squeeze the remaining juice from the pith all over salad and then toss. If there’s not enough juice leftover, add a splash of sherry vinegar.