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Citrus Fruits

by Louise Fiszer & Jeannette Ferrary

During the sometimes bleak days of winter, I keep a large, shallow bowl of the season's best citrus fruits as a centerpiece on my kitchen table. The vibrant colors, named after the fruits themselves (orange, lime, lemon, tangerine), radiate a sunny warmth and remind me to incorporate the sweet, refreshing fruits in my winter menus.

With exception of the grapefruit, all citrus fruits are millions of years old. First cultivated in India, Japan and China, they are semi-tropical plants native to southeast Asia. The demand for oranges increased dramatically in the 1500s, after the Portuguese brought back the first sweet oranges from India and China. Spanish explorers like Ponce de Leon and Hernando DeSoto have been credited with the first plantings in the new world; but, in fact, every America-bound sailor was given 100 seeds to sow. It wasn't long before Europe would be importing the fruits of these labors by the bushelful.

Consumer and Cooking Guide

Market Selection
Orange varieties include Hamlin and Valencia which are considered juice oranges; and navel, California and blood oranges which are considered eating oranges. The main commercial varieties of lemons are the large Eureka and the smoother skinned Lisbon. Meyer lemons are gaining popularity but are most often grown in home gardens. Persian or Tahiti limes are the most common variety. Dancy, the seedless Satsuma, Kinnow, Fairchild and hybrid tangelo are some of the more common mandarins or tangerines. Grapefruit varieties include White Marsh, Marsh Ruby and Star Ruby.

September through May -- peak season October through April.

May be stored at room temperature for one week or in refrigerator (uncovered) two to three weeks.

1 orange = 1/2 cup juice
1/2 orange = 1 tablespoon grated zest
1 lemon or lime = about 3 tablespoons juice
1 lemon or lime = 1 tablespoon grated zest

Nutritional Value
Excellent source of vitamin C and fiber
70 calories per orange
30 calories per lemon
100 calories per grapefruit
70 calories per tangerine
30 calories per lime

Cooking and Handling Note
The "zest" is the outer colored skin of the citrus fruit. The white layer underneath is the "pith" and is very bitter. To zest a citrus fruit, use a vegetable peeler or a special tool called a zester.

Spicy Olive and Lemon Caponata
makes 2 cups
a wonderful addition to an antipasto tray

8 ounces pitted green olives
8 ounces pitted black olives
2 tomatoes, seeded and chopped
1/4 cup olive oil
6 cloves garlic, minced
1 tablespoon tomato paste
3 1/4-inch slices Eureka lemon
1/2 teaspoon chili powder or to taste
1/8 teaspoon cayenne

In a medium saucepan, combine olives with tomato, oil, garlic and tomato paste. Simmer eight minutes. Add the lemon, chili powder, cayenne and 1/4 cup water. Simmer until water is absorbed. Let cool and taste for salt. Spread on toasted baguette slices or crackers.

Tangerine Lime Icebox Cookies
makes about 4 dozen

1 1/2 cups butter, room temperature
1 cup sugar
1 tablespoon grated lime zest
1 tablespoon grated tangerine zest
2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
2 tablespoons fresh tangerine juice
1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
confectioner's sugar for garnish

With an electric mixer, cream the butter and sugar until light in color. Add the zests and juices and beat until mixture is smooth. Combine flour with baking powder, baking soda and salt and beat into butter mixture.

On a piece of waxed paper, form dough into a log 1 1/2 inches in diameter. Wrap and chill at least two hours (or freeze up to two months.)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Cut the log into 1/8-inch thick slices. Place them about one inch apart on ungreased cookie sheets. Bake 8-10 minutes or until edges are golden. Cool on wire rack, then dust with confectioner's sugar.

Spinach and Blood Orange Salad with Saut�ed Shrimp
serves 6

6 cups fresh spinach, stemmed, leaves torn into bite size pieces
3 blood oranges, peeled, seeded and sectioned
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 pound medium shrimp, peeled and deveined
3 tablespoons fresh orange juice
1 tablespoon honey
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
1 teaspoon mustard
salt and pepper
1/2 cup chopped fresh chives

On a shallow platter make a bed of spinach leaves. Arrange the orange sections over the spinach.

In a medium skillet, heat the oil. Saute the shrimp until pink all over. Remove with slotted spoon and keep warm. To the same skillet add the orange juice, honey and vinegar. Bring to a boil and stir in the mustard. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Sprinkle half the dressing on the spinach mixture and toss the remaining dressing with the shrimp. Arrange the shrimp in the center of the platter. Garnish with chives and serve.

Grapefruit Marmalade
makes about 3 cups
try this on your toasted bagel with a little smear of cream cheese

2 Marsh white grapefruits
2 1/4 cups sugar

Cut a 1/2-inch slice from the end of each grapefruit. Cut the grapefruits in half lengthwise. With the cut sides down, slice the grapefruits crosswise as thinly as possible. Collect the juice and the slices, discard the seeds.

In a heavy nonreactive four-quart pot, bring the grapefruits, juice and five cups of water to a boil. Boil gently for 1/2 hour. Add the sugar and boil until a candy thermometer registers 220 degrees F. Test the marmalade by putting a spoonful on a saucer. If the marmalade does not run when tipped, it is done. Pour into sterilized jars. Let cool and cover. Refrigerate. Will keep about three months.

Jeannette & Louise are Bay Area freelance food writers and the authors of several books including Sweet Onions & Sour Cherries and A Good Day for Soup.

Note: This information was accurate when it was published. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the businesses in question before making your plans.

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