Sir, There's Blood in My Orange

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Faith Willinger


I grew up thinking all oranges were orange. So my first encounter with red oranges was a surprise. Years ago, my brother Alan ordered fruit for dessert at a restaurant in Milan. They brought him a plate of oranges, he cut one in half, and when it looked bloody, very un-orange-like, crimson with streaks, he thought it was rotten, pushed it aside, tried another, and seeing the same unfamiliar look skipped dessert. He eventually learned, as I did, that red oranges are even better than the all-orange variety we grew up with, with more complex flavors that hint of berries, and lots of anthocyanin (a great antioxidant).

Three cultivars of Sicilian red oranges have an IGP (protected geographical) designation and are grown in the provinces of Catania, Syracuse, and Enna. Tarocchi are thin-skinned with variegated orange and scarlet flesh, thought to be the finest expression of red oranges. Sanguinelli have skin with a reddish blush, and the flesh is more or less streaked with crimson. They are both pretty easy to find in Italy all winter long and into the spring.

I squeeze juice and slice oranges for dessert, and serve them plain or topped with grated chocolate, chopped pistachio nuts, or sweetened ricotta.

My favorite is the hard-to-find Moro, available for only a few winter months, which has thick smooth skin with faint ruby shading on one side, with flesh that ranges from deep orange to dark purple and more antioxidants (since they're redder). I order a case from Il Biviere and feel positively wealthy when they arrive. I squeeze juice and slice oranges for dessert, and serve them plain or topped with grated chocolate, chopped pistachio nuts, or sweetened ricotta. I make orange salad with fennel and onions, and Nicoletta's Sicilian gelo. Sicilian ceramics, purchased from Panarello Antiques in Taormina years ago, complete the picture.

I've found some sources in the US for red oranges (look here or here, for example), but I don't know if they are as wonderful as my Sicilian reds. Let me know if you try them.

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Faith Willinger is a chef, author, and born-again Italian. She moved to Italy in 1973 and has spent over 30 years searching for the best food from the Alps to Sicily. More

Faith Heller Willinger is a born-again Italian. She moved to Italy in 1973 and was seduced by Italian regional cooking. Faith has spent more than 30 years searching for the best food and wine, as well as the world beyond the table from the Alps to Sicily. She has no regrets about mileage or calories. Faith was awarded the prestigious San Pellegrino award for outstanding work as an ambassador of Italian cooking. She lives full-time in Florence with her Tuscan husband, Massimo. Her son Max lives in Milan. She's the author of the bestselling (9th printing) guidebook Eating in Italy, the cookbook Red, White & Greens, and the narrative recipe book Adventures of an Italian Food Lover. Faith teaches in her kitchen in Florence on Wednesdays, supplied with freshly picked produce from her favorite farmers. Check out her web site at www.faithwillinger.com.
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