Brightening Up Winter With Citrus

The cold, gray and wet days of winter have set in here in Sonoma County, but have no fear…bright, sunny citrus is here to the rescue! Winter is citrus season, and citrus is the easiest way to add some brightness to these cold months. This week we have some freshly picked winter wonders for you that are perfect for snacks on the go, juicing, garnishes or a sweet addition to salads.

Whether you’re snacking on the segments, or using the fruit for its juice, the rest of the fruit often goes to waste. This doesn’t need to be the case, however, because the entire fruit is usable. That’s right, from the zest of the skin to the seeds inside it; you can use every part of the fruit and waste nothing! Let’s take a look at how each component of citrus can be used.

Zest

The outermost layer of skin, it’s bright, colorful and packed with citrus oil that is extremely fragrant and flavorful. Typically, the zest is used in any recipe that you want to add a pop of citrus to, without having to use the juice itself. You can use zest to:

* Bring a pop of citrus flavor to sugar cookies.

* Garnish a cocktail.

* Balance out the rich flavors of a pan sauce.

* Cut the heaviness of mayonnaise by adding some brightness.

Pith

This is the white, spongy layer just below the zest. It has a very bitter taste, which you can use to your advantage. When using the pith, leave it intact with the rind. You can use pith to:

* Make candied citrus rinds.

* Make marmalade. The bitterness from the pith balances out the sweetness of the marmalade.

* Liven up a cup of black tea. Add dried citrus rind for an added pop of flavor.

* Add flavor to meat dishes. Put the peels in your braising liquid or inside the chicken cavity.

Segments

This is the main part of the fruit that is divided into individual sections by a thin membrane. You can use the segments to:

* Make a tasty dessert by dipping half of one in chocolate.

* Preserve them.

* Add them to a winter green salad.

* Enjoy them on their own as a tasty snack.

Pulp

Each citrus segment is filled with tiny, fluid-filled sacs. When the membrane is cut away from the segments, only the pulp of the segments remains. You can use pulp in:

* Citrus salsa.

* Citrus parfait.

* Winter salads.

Juice

Squeeze or press any citrus to break the pulp sacs and release all of the juicy goodness that’s inside. A glass of fresh squeezed juice is the most common way to use it, but there are a few creative ways it can be used, too. Use the juice to:

* Liven up a classic hollandaise sauce.

* Add a fresh component to your house-made Margarita.

* Make a pie, like Key Lime or Lemon Meringue.

Seeds

While there are not many culinary uses for seeds, they do have their uses. Citrus seeds can be used:

* As a source of pectin in jam making.

* To plant a tree! Of course it will take a long time before it bears fruit.

Now that you’ve read about how to use every part of your favorite winter citrus, here’s a recipe that’s sure to brighten any gray winter day.

Citrus Salad with Arugula and Ricotta Salata

Serves 4-6

Ingredients

* 5 tablespoons white balsamic vinegar

* 1/2 small red onion, thinly sliced

* 2 blood oranges, peeled and sliced into 1/4 inch pieces

* 1 Cara Cara orange, peeled and sliced into 1/4 inch pieces

* 1 Navel orange, peeled and sliced into 1/4 inch pieces

* 2 tablespoons roughly chopped fresh Mint

* 2 tablespoons roughly chopped roasted Pistachios

* 3 cups packed baby Arugula

* 2 tablespoons Extra Virgin Olive Oil

* 2 tablespoons crumbled Ricotta Salata

* Kosher salt and black pepper to taste

Directions

Place 3 tbsp. vinegar and onion in a bowl and let sit 15 minutes; drain, discarding vinegar. Arrange the orange slices in alternating colors on a large plate or platter. Sprinkle with mint, pistachios, and the marinated red onions. Toss remaining vinegar, the arugula, oil, salt, and pepper in a bowl. Pile the arugula in the center of the oranges and sprinkle with ricotta salata. Serve immediately.

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