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Citrus Fruit:
Like Sunshine in My Hand

by Prof. Steve Holzinger

photo  

That's the way I feel about Florida citrus fruits: Like sunshine in my hand. This winter I was laid low by a flu that lingered for more than a month. I came to my little condo on Crystal Lake here in Florida to recuperate. As I started to feel better, I wanted to start cooking again, as that is my normal state.

We have a great big orange tree here, loaded with kind of rusty-greenish oranges, which weren't quite ripe at the time, sour, but very full of juice. They were probably Pineapples or Hamlins, some variety of juice orange that abound in Florida, and you never see anywhere else as they are used for making juice, a major Florida industry. The heart of this industry is Indian River Country, in St. Lucie County, where you can find out why Florida oranges are so sweet and juicy.

These oranges have a very thin skin and are heavy and firm, with large sections and bulging cells bursting with juice. That's what you want in good citrus fruit, not just a pretty face. Just remember, you don't eat the skin! (Not 100% true: see the recipes for candied rinds and slices.) Florida oranges often have some skin discoloration due to the wind rubbing the heavy fruit against the tree, or a greenish tint due to warm evenings and subtropical climate.

If you know me, you know I am a BBQ freak, and a Carolina-style freak at that. Carolina-style BBQ uses vinegar and Tabasco to marinate and mop the meat as it cooks. I used to buy a product called Soy Domeneco, in my local tropical grocery, which isn't soy sauce, but is a mix of vinegar, sour orange, which is a separate variety, kind of uglifruit looking, crushed garlic, chiles, and oregano sprigs. I say I used to buy it, because with free sour orange juice, I just whip up a batch as needed.

roast

Even simpler, I just mix some fresh squeezed juice with ground red pepper. Right now I have a chicken and a pork roast in the refrig, just sucking the orange marinade up. The pork roast has some ginger shreds too...Why? Why not! I sear the roast on the barbecue grill on both sides, till it is well colored. Then I move it to the top rack on the side that isn't turned on (it's a two burner), close the cover, turn the fire from high to low, and roast the pork, turning it once or twice as the bottom gets brown faster than the top. I reduce the remaining marinade till it's almost syrupy, and add about the same volume of my favorite BBQ sauce, which at the moment, is Tom's Hot BBQ sauce.

Tom's started out in an old army barracks in Southeast Florida. Folks liked it so much that it is now a 280 seat restaurant in nearby Boca Raton on Federal Highway, that serves top notch chicken and ribs topped with this sauce. Dry BBQ is roasted dry, and then the sauce is 'mopped' on to finish. Using the hopped up sauce, I paint it on the roast, turning often enough to dry it out without burning. I like to keep the roast moist, and not overcook it. A touch of pink doesn' t bother me, 165-170 F internal is what I aim at. This glazes the already well colored roast.

I like to serve it with apple sauce, or cranberry apple sauce, and a dish of dipping sauce, made of the reduced sour orange juice, vinegar, pepper and catsup or Tom's, as most prepared sauces are too sweet, and not hot and sour enough. When there is left over cold pork, I slice it thin, mix in a little Tom's, a shake of red pepper, and nuke it just enough to get the meat hot again. I make a cut in the top of a hard roll (called a Chicago roll around here, like a large gallete) and toast and stuff the roll. Nice snack.

No, I don't always use Tom's. Mine is a little too killer for most folks; it takes getting used to. The way I make mine is to reduce about a cup of sour orange juice or more, and maybe some pineapple juice for sweetness, if you have it, about 1/2 cup, and a teaspoon of red pepper (maybe more), with a few thin slices of fresh ginger by about half, and add that to about half a 27 oz squeeze bottle of Heinz catsup, right in the bottle. Then I add about a tablespoon of prepared mustard, 3 or 4 cloves of freshly crushed garlic, about an ounce of balsamic vinegar, enough Mushroom Soy (dark soy) to darken it down, and I shake it up good, taste, and see how the spirit moves me. I squirt it right from the bottle onto the almost finished roast, and paint it on freely, and then dry it to a glaze with the fire. It is a bit rich for direct use as a BBQ sauce.

The reduced juice is what gives it its distinctive kick, along with the balsamic vinegar (for tart sweetness). For salad work, I don't use juice oranges, I use eating oranges. The summer eating orange is a Valencia and they are so heavy and sweet with juice from the heart of the Indian River Country. That is real sunshine in the hand, and there is nothing better for a refreshing pick me up when you are recuperating from a nasty flu than to eat them out of your hand. There are a number of ways to cut them for easy eating, but I prefer points or smiles.

fruit salad

For salad work, they are best peeled and sectioned, and once you learn how to do this, you may be spoiled for life. In a previous eGGsalad, on salads, I gave you the recipe for Salad Panama, where it tells how to section fruit, and here is a picture of it, complete with big sweet strawberries from Dover, Florida, which I can't resist. There is also a picture of pinwheel salad. Around a center of ripe red strawberry, I alternate Valencia orange sections, Duncan white grapefruit sections , and Marsh ruby red sections to make a complete pinwheel around the strawberry.

Either one of these salads and a cup of yogurt, (you pick the flavor) makes a nice light lunch. Let me tell you about Duncan and Marsh grapefruits. Marsh grapefruits are seedless, and come in white, pink, bronze, and ruby red colors, and are milder in flavor. Again, pick thin skinned heavy fruit. Marsh have almost driven the old Duncan grapefruits out of popularity. The Duncans have seeds and are much richer in grapefruit character.

Character is the combination of qualities that make a grapefruit look, feel, and taste like a real grapefruit, a "10", and if you want to experience the genuine full grapefruit flavor, choose a Duncan, if you can find one. By the way, in your favorite produce store, look for the brand name "Orchid" which is reserved for the very best grapefruits in character and appearance. Mexican pencil grass (thin asparagus) is appearing in the supermarkets here, and by the time you read this you will be able to get Jersey or Pennsylvania pencil grass.

I know that the thicker Jumbo and Colossal spears command the premium prices, but I love the taste and texture of the thin grass, steamed just under two minutes in the microwave. Just slice them into two inch cuts, leaving the tips somewhat longer, and discarding any woody bottoms, and put a tablespoon of water and a tablespoon of butter, cover with saran and nuke em! I serve them with a Grapefruit Sauce Maltaise. A Sauce Maltaise is a hollandaise made with the reduced juice of blood oranges. Ruby Red grapefruits are a lot easier to lay your hands on, and have a more tangy taste that works well with the taste of young grass. In the eGGsalad Archive on fish, (#17) I gave you the recipe for one of my favorite ways of doing sautéd fish, Grenobloise, a compound butter made with capers, lemon juice, diced lemons and browned butter. You just have to try it with Florida Meyer Lemons.

Russ Parsons, of the LA Times Food Section in an article on sour taste says "Limes have a splendid herbaceous, almost grassy taste. Lemons have a brighter, more uncomplicated taste, except for Meyer Lemons, of course, which have a more complex, almost tangerine taste." Too bad I don't have a recipe for Key Lime Pie, but I'm not much of a baker. I do enjoy a seviche, lime pickled scallops, and I have a great recipe from the long gone La Fonda de la Sol, for Christmas Tree Seviche. One last thing, not exactly a recipe, but the best blue cheese dressing you ever tasted! Guaranteed! Just crumble up some (no, lots of) blue cheese into sour cream, shot of Tabasco, and thin it out to a salad dressing consistency with fresh grapefruit juice. If you like bluecheese salad dressing, you will have a new (well, I've been making it like this for years) favorite.

Yes, you can use yogurt or low fat sour cream, but it won't be quite as good. BTW, this got me interested in Caribbean Cooking, and I discovered that I was reinventing the wheel. For those of you interested, an excellent book to check out is "The Caribbean Pantry Cookbook," by Steve Raichlen, 1993 Julia Child Award winner for the best American cookbook. TTFN. I'm feeling lots better. Nothing like some sunshine in your hand.

 
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© 1997, Steve K. Holzinger. All rights reserved.

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This Archived Page created between 1994 and 2001. Modified August 2007


 


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