Produce at Its Peak: Beets and Blood Oranges

Blood Oranges and Beets

There are a few fruits that I look forward to all year and when they are finally in season, I eat as much of them as I can as often as possible. Not only eaten out of hand, but added to dishes sweet and savory alike. In the winter, during citrus season, the blood orange is my fruit of choice with its sanguine flesh and raspberry flavor.

Blood oranges likely originated in the Mediterranean and they are still the primary orange grown in Italy. In the United States, blood oranges are grown in both Texas and California. The characteristic garnet colored flesh develops with low nighttime temperatures. In Minnesota, most of the blood oranges are imported from California where cool nights this winter have produced a stunning crop.

There are three different varieties – Tarocco, Moro, and Sanguinello. The Moro and Sanguinello have deep red flesh and often a ruddy blush to the skin as well. Moros are more bitter and tend to be more commonly grown in the United States than the sweeter Sanguinello. The Tarocco are the other variety commonly grown in this country. Taroccos have a mostly orange flesh with red veining. They are the sweetest of the three varieties and reportedly have the highest vitamin C content of any orange.

One of my favorite flavor pairings with blood oranges is beetroot. The earthy sweetness of the beetroot is offset beautifully by the ripe brightness of the blood orange. For winter vibrancy, both red and gold beets lend saturated color to the plate and a rich array of vitamins and nutrients to the body. Full of vitamins A, B, C, potassium, folate, manganese and dietary fiber, beets are hailed as anti-inflammatory, anti-oxidants, and detoxifying. An added bonus - even in February, our selection of beets is still coming from Heartbeet Farms in Zumbro Falls, Minn.

Blood Orange, Beet, and Fennel Salad

Image

Adapted From Bon Appetit Magazine

2 medium red beets, tops trimmed

2 medium golden beets, tops trimmed

3 blood oranges

1 medium navel orange (preferably Cara Cara)

1 Tbsp. fresh lemon juice

1 Tbsp. fresh lime juice

1/2 small fennel bulb, very thinly sliced crosswise on a mandoline

1/4 red onion, very thinly sliced on a mandoline (about 1/3 cup)

Good-quality extra-virgin olive, pumpkin seed, or walnut oil (for drizzling)

Coarse sea salt, such as fleur de sel or Maldon sea salt, and freshly ground black pepper

1/4 cup loosely packed fresh cilantro leaves

Preheat oven to 400°. Wash beets, leaving some water on skins. Wrap individually in foil; place on a rimmed baking sheet and roast until beets are tender when pierced with a knife, about 1 hour. Let cool.

Meanwhile, using a sharp knife, cut all peel and white pith from oranges; discard. Working over a medium bowl, cut between membranes of 2 blood oranges to release segments into bowl; squeeze juice from membranes into bowl and discard membranes. Slice remaining blood orange and Cara Cara orange crosswise into thin rounds. Place sliced oranges in bowl with the segments. Add lemon juice and lime juice.

Peel cooled beets. Slice 2 beets crosswise into thin rounds. Cut remaining 2 beets into wedges. Strain citrus juices; reserve. Layer beets and oranges on plates, dividing evenly. Arrange fennel and onion over beets. Spoon reserved citrus juices over, then drizzle salad generously with oil. Season to taste with coarse sea salt and pepper. Let salad stand for 5 minutes to allow flavors to meld. Garnish salad with cilantro leaves