Market Fresh: Oranges

Oranges are so much more than an afternoon snack. Boost almost any meal with this nutritious, versatile and delicious citrus.
Orangesmarket Fresh
There are few things more highly anticipated than the first ripe strawberry of spring or a crisp fall apple, just days off the tree. In our Market Fresh series, we look at the produce in season this month and offer quick and easy suggestions for how to enjoy it.

With a history stretching back over the millennia to ancient Asia, there's perhaps no food as well known or as well loved as the orange. Eaten in sections, this nutritious sweet treat makes a handy snack. As juice, it's just as appropriate with weekday breakfast as it is for an elegant Sunday brunch — with Champagne, of course. Orange groves now extend from the Caribbean, Europe and Brazil (the world's biggest producer) to the U.S. orange hubs of California and Florida. This beloved fruit has served as an aphrodisiac in China, a Christmas treat throughout Europe — and just plain good eating the world over.

Do it for your health
Oranges are famously loaded with vitamin C — over 100 percent of the recommended daily allowance is contained in a single piece of fruit. But they offer other benefits as well, such as small amounts of potassium, calcium, magnesium and phosphorus. Anthocyanins, which give blood oranges their red hue, are thought to be cancer-preventive. All varieties boast a significant amount of fiber, as well as vitamin A and folate. Oranges are naturally low in calories; one medium fruit has about 70 calories.

Selection, preparation and storage
First, choose your orange. Easier said than done, as the varieties are seemingly endless. Some of the best: sweet, seedless navels; aromatic, thick-skinned Jaffas (sometimes called Shamouti); or spectacular, deep-red blood oranges, whose dusky taste carries a hint of berries. Closely related to the orange is the mandarin, sweet and loose-skinned (therefore easily peeled), ranging from the Japanese satsuma to the Mediterranean clementine. Another popular mandarin, first brought to the U.S. from the Moroccan town of Tangiers, is — you guessed it — the tangerine. Whichever citrus tickles your fancy, the best way to select oranges is by touch; they should feel firm and heavy, indicating a fruit with a lot of juice. Peels should be free of bruising and discoloration, but a tinge of green doesn't hurt, as this can be present even in the ripest oranges.

What to do with oranges
Use the flesh, juice, peel or zest — or any combination. Zest refers to just the topmost colored part of the peel without any of the bitter white pith. To reduce the risk of consuming pesticides, it's best to buy organic oranges if you plan to use the peel or zest.

  • Toss sections in a salad. Combine oranges with vegetables for intriguing salads. Sections of navels or mandarin oranges go well with thinly sliced cucumbers, jicama and onions (use equal amounts of the 4), tossed together with vinaigrette and served over romaine or arugula. Add some cumin, grated orange zest and chili powder to your vinaigrette, and you have a spin-off of Mexico's classic Ensalada Pico de Gallo.

  • Create a citrusy vinaigrette. For a dressing that has less fat and fewer calories than a traditional vinaigrette, mix 2 parts olive oil to 1 part balsamic vinegar, 1/2 part orange juice and 1/4 part defrosted concentrate.

  • Make a marinade for chicken. Marinate 4 boneless chicken breast halves with a soy-orange mixture: 1 cup each of freshly squeezed orange juice and soy sauce, 2 cloves minced garlic, 2 tablespoons all-fruit orange marmalade and 1 teaspoon ground ginger. Cut a peeled orange into 1/2-inch pieces. After marinating chicken for an hour, broil 5 minutes, turn over, top with orange pieces, baste with marinade and broil 3 to 5 minutes more.

  • Spice up salsa for fish. A spicy blood orange salsa is the perfect accompaniment for fish: Combine 2 peeled, diced, blood oranges with 1/2 cup diced tomato, 1/4 cup minced onion, 1 minced jalapeño pepper, juice from 1/2 lime and 2 tablespoons minced fresh cilantro. Refrigerate several hours; serve at room temperature.

  • Create a stylish dessert or bowl. Use an orange as an elegant dessert container. Slice off the top 1/2 inch from an orange and scoop out and reserve the flesh, being very careful not to puncture the orange shell. Fill the shell with store-bought orange sorbet or sherbet. Shave off a sliver from the bottom of the orange so that it sits upright on a small plate. You can combine the scooped-out orange flesh with some vanilla yogurt in a blender for a great breakfast smoothie.

For more recipe suggestions, check out the links below

Braised Rhubarb with Oranges and Walnuts

Glazed Oranges à la Mode

Napa Cabbage, Turkey and Orange Salad

Orange-Grilled Scallops with Mint and Tomatoes

Looking for tips on what to do with other seasonal produce this month? Read about Market Fresh: Cranberries or Beets.

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