Did you know that December and January are the best times of the year to eat citrus? Neither did I.
But then, after scoffing at yet another fashion spread featuring Kate Moss and what I hope was an ironically titled “steal of the month” section featuring a $500 dress, I happily stumbled upon a delightful essay by chef and author Tamar Adler in the December issue of Vogue. (Yes, embarrassingly enough, I read Vogue. But I swear, their food essays are unparalleled and accompanied by gorgeous photos!)
The essay, in which Adler proposes a flurry of tempting, yet doubtlessly expensive, citrus-inspired dishes, is my favorite food essay since Oliver Strand’s ode to field salads in May. Strand’s essay inspired a string of highly unusual, sometimes nearly inedible salads–but I did discover some tasty new greens in the process.
My experiments with citrus have carried less risk and more sweet reward.
First, the usual suspects: lemons, limes, and oranges.
Lemons are replete in the grocery stores at the moment, bright and sharp and robust. This is an excuse for me to make my favorite chickpea and Swiss Chard pasta, of which fresh lemon juice is the most important ingredient. Limes are a crucial for homemade pico de gallo (I’ll post my recipe if you’d like), and oranges? Well, oranges are generally tasty, and their peels can be used to flavor mulled wine.
If you’re like me, you’ll be drawn to the large & proud fruits in the grocery store; thus, the photo above, where a stupendous pomelo intimidates a lime. When you cut open a pomelo, be sure to take a huge whiff of the inside: sweet, tangy, and wonderful, like sea mist drawn in on a tropical breeze. I would happily use a frothy pomelo body wash or light a pomelo-scented candle in the kitchen. Unfortunately, regarding taste, it is my least favorite of the bunch. Residing somewhere between a grapefruit and an orange, it is also a challenging fruit to eat, full of fibrous caverns.
Cara caras and blood oranges: the first, mild and sweet, a suggestion of rosiness, a combination of kiwi and starfruit. Light, fragrant, and satisfying, with almost no acidity or tartness. Some might call this bland; if this is your reaction, proceed to the…
Aptly-named blood orange, an ombre fruit starting with amber and proceeding to liquid-infused crimson. Its flavor, as you would suspect, is darker and richer than regular oranges, slightly tangy but also very sweet. Personally, I think it tastes like a fruit cocktail.
I have a penchant for odd or unusual names; thus, my selection of the ugli fruit. Mine, perhaps, is not so ugly as most others–but the taste is assuredly just as wonderful. My favorite of the bunch, a cross between a lemon and a cara-cara, with a not-so-subtle sourness and a jaunting flavor. There is also a very light, but intriguing, fermenting undertone. This I could eat every day. And I will, for as long as I can find it in the grocery store.
Photo credits: Many thanks to G., his wonderful camera, and the cooperative natural light for these fruit portraits. 🙂