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Blood orange season is short, so get them now

01/20/2014 10:12 AM

01/20/2014 10:12 AM

I get sentimental this time of year. I love wintertime and the comfort I was raised on.

I also cannot wait to visit Sicily in March for my annual trip, visiting olive oil farms, wineries, cooking classes, bakeries, restaurants, markets, family, friends and of course getting to experience the food my grandparents were raised on.

I am lucky this month to enjoy one in particular ingredient know in Sicily and one that I absolutely love to cook with —the Moro Blood Orange.

Until recently, it was believed that the blood orange originated in the Mediterranean. Now documented evidence exists that the red oranges originated in China as early as the Fourth Century.

The first mention of a red orange is in Sicily did not come until nine centuries later in an opera Hesperides by the Jesuit Ferrari in 1646.

As nights get cooler, the Moro’s exterior blush intensifies. I remember as a child, when visiting my family in Gibellina, my grandfather would tell me the harsh Sorocco winds from Africa were good for only one thing, the beautiful Sicilian blood oranges.

Moro oranges are available from January through mid-April. Moros are small to medium sized with a thin skin and few or no seeds. Slice open a Moro and you’ll see a bright red to deep maroon interior.

Take a bite and you’ll become a fan of the intense orange taste that hints of fresh raspberry. This variety of orange is believed to have originated at the beginning of the 19 Century in the citrus growing area around Lentini, the province of Siracusa, Sicily, and was first grown in America in 1930.

Blood oranges are named their for deep red flesh. The red color is due to anthocyanin, and antioxidant found in many red fruits and vegetables including berries and red potatoes. Sometimes there is a dark coloring on the exterior of the rind and the skin is much harder to peel than that of other oranges.

This past week, I experienced some blood oranges with local writer and radio host Kimberly Winter Stern that was prepared by Chef Brian Archibald from Rosso Restaurant. Archibald tossed the oranges with homemade potato gnocchi and fresh fennel and served it all in a Parmesan broth.

I celebrate the blood orange with different dishes and cocktails. A roasted duck and blood orange reduction, Blood Orangecello liqueur for craft cocktails and this past week I prepared a Blood Orange and Fennel Salad for a “Winter Experience” dinner.

This weekend, I am baking one of my favorite cakes prepared with my nephew Jasper III’s fresh Blood Orangecello. The recipe for the cello is below for you to make a batch yourself, it is easy to prepare and so deliciozo. Make sure you get your oranges soon, the season is short.

Ha, you can dream of Sicily right along with me. Salute!

Jasper III’s Blood Orangecello 8 Moro Blood Oranges 12 tablespoons sugar 1 liter vodka 3 cups water

Cut blood oranges and half juice and save peel. In a large sauce pot and blood orange juice sugar and water. Bring to a boil, lower heat and let steep for 15 minutes. Remove from stove cool and add vodka.

Pour mixture into a sterilized gallon jug. Add blood orange peel. Seal. Store in a cool dry dark room for 14 days. Pour into bottles and refrigerate.

Chef Jasper J. Mirabile Jr. of Jasper’s commands the helm of his family’s 59-year-old restaurant, consistently rated one of Kansas City’s best Italian restaurants. In addition to running the restaurant with his brother, Mirabile is a culinary instructor, founding member of Slow Food Kansas City and a national board member of the American Institute of Wine and Food. He hosts many famous chefs on his weekly radio show Live! From Jasper’s Kitchen on KCMO 710 AM and 103.7 FM and sells a line of dressings and sauces.

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