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Ingredient Spotlight: Citrus

Red grapefruit, lime, orange, tangerine, and small blood orange (Moro variety)

When I was a little girl, I often went to school with orange slices wrapped in foil. My mom called them “smiles” because I could put the slices into my mouth and smile a bright orange grin…you know, like Don Corleone in The Godfather.

Smiles were easy to eat. And unless they were dry or mealy, they were really good to eat, too. In my mom’s stable of go-to lunch fruits (apples, bananas, and oranges), oranges were my favorite. I would even chew the bitter white pith and gnaw on the skin with its intense orangey flavor. I liked how one piece of fruit could be sweet, juicy, acidic, bitter, chewy, and rich.

All of those characteristics I loved about oranges are shared by other citrus—to varying degrees, of course. Lightly grate the peel of a lemon and the fruit will offer a pure slightly sweet lemony taste with none of its sourness. Chop the flesh of a grapefruit and mix it with a little bit of honey and you’ll have a lovely sweet-and-sour combination that works as a topping for ice cream, toast, or even fish. Squeeze the juice from a lime and its acidic punch complements everything from onions, garlic, corn, sweet and hot peppers to mangoes, coconuts, papaya, bananas, and avocados. Mix orange juice and a few smiles into white or red wine and you have the makings for sangria.

Experiment with other types of citrus. Like ugli fruit, a wild hybrid of grapefruit, orange, and tangerines. Or blood oranges whose red pigment gives the fruit an almost raspberry flavor (if you can find the Tarocco variety, choose them over Moro; they’re much sweeter). Dress your Halloween table with Buddha’s hand, a yellow citron that truly looks like a gnarled hand (and you can even candy the citron after the holiday is over). Tangerines, clementines, kumquats, mandarins, key limes...the list of citrus ready to be explored is vast.

In our list of upcoming recipes, we’re going to explore citrus in all of its glory, highlighting not just its acidic components but its sweet, sour, and bitter ones. Rest assured that even if a recipe makes us pucker, the use of citrus will ultimately make us smile!

Stay tuned for recipes featuring citrus!

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