Ingredient SpotLight

While fresh oranges are readily available from October through July, those that are offered in January through April are among the finest of the year. Therefore, with the beginning of the New Year comes an opportunity to explore new ways to enjoy this sweet fruit that's wonderful whether it's been cooked for hours or eaten straight out of the peel.

Oranges were brought to the United States from Spain when explorers enjoyed this favorite treat and tossed the seeds as they wandered the new world. The seeds managed to find comfortable quarters and soon there were oranges growing in the southeastern part of America. Today, the state of Florida is the second largest producer of oranges in the world ... trumped only by Brazil. Polk County, Florida's largest orange-producing region, boasts more than 84,000 acres that yield more than 34 million boxes of the sweet fruit.

And it's a good thing that oranges are so readily available. They are great for you! In addition to providing more than a day's worth of vitamin C, a medium orange has only about 50 calories and is a good source of dietary fiber. But, if you want that fiber, you’re better off peeling instead of pouring. The lion's share of the fiber is found in the fibrous membranes and pith surrounding the juicy bits that find their way into that morning glass of OJ.

Since oranges are at the peak of perfection now and for the next few months, I thought I'd share some recipes that fall on the more unique side of recipes using this citrus fruit. They take advantage of the sweet and tangy aspects of oranges and use everything from peel to juice to flesh. Enjoy them and remember to take at least a few opportunities to enjoy them fresh out of their peels as well!

Scallops with Orange-Braised Shallots

Sweet scallops pairs beautifully with the tangy flavor of oranges in this lovely dish that will have you dreaming of sunny beaches.
  • 1 lb. large sea scallops
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • 4 T. olive oil, divided
  • 1 c. orange juice
  • 2/3 c. orange juice concentrate
  • 12 large shallots, peeled
  • 1-1/2 oz. sherry vinegar
  • 2 c. chicken stock
  • 1 T. unsalted butter

Season the scallops after drying them well. Heat two tablespoons of olive oil in a large sauté pan. Add the scallops without overcrowding them. Brown them well, turning once, and let them cook over medium high heat until done.

In a non-aluminum pan, bring the orange juice and orange juice concentrate to a boil and simmer for 5 minutes; set the mixture aside. In a sauté pan, heat the remaining two tablespoons of olive oil and add the shallots, browning them well on all sides. Add the orange juice mixture, vinegar and chicken stock, season lightly and cover the sauce. Let it simmer over medium heat until the shallots are nearly cooked through (check their doneness with a knife). Remove the shallots and let the remaining liquid reduce uncovered to about one cup. Swirl in the butter and plate immediately.

Arrange the scallops and shallots around a pile of mashed potatoes in the center of the plate. Pour remaining liquids around the plate.

  • Yields: 4 servings
  • Preparation Time: 30 minutes

Simple Orange Chicken

This easy recipe is healthy enough to enjoy on a regular basis -- unlike the similar dish served at Chinese restaurants all over America.
  • 1 orange
  • 2 T. hoisin sauce
  • 2 tsp. hot chili garlic sauce (find in Asian stores or larger grocery stores)
  • 1 T. rice vinegar
  • 1 tsp. brown sugar
  • 1/2 c. orange juice concentrate
  • 1/2 c. water
  • 1 lb. boneless chicken breast, cut in bite size pieces
  • 2 T. cornstarch
  • 1 T. olive oil
  • 1 tsp. minced garlic
  • 1 tsp. minced ginger
  • 1 red bell pepper, cut in strips

With a vegetable peeler or a paring knife, peel the orange, taking only the very outermost thin, layer. Cut it into very thin half inch slivers.

In a glass or bowl, mix the hoisin sauce, hot chili garlic sauce, rice vinegar, brown sugar, orange juice concentrate, and water. Add the juice of the orange. Set aside.

Toss the chicken in the cornstarch. Heat the oil in a sauté pan over medium-high heat. Add the citrus rind, garlic, ginger and pepper. Cook the mixture until fragrant; add the chicken. Keep stirring the chicken until it is brown.

Add the sauce mixture. Cook until it boils and turns clear. If you want it thicker, mix 1 T cornstarch in a little water and add to the sauce. Cook until the sauce turns clear again. Serve over hot rice.

  • Yields: 4 servings
  • Preparation Time: 30 minutes

Candied Oranges

These tangy treats were actually a favorite of mine when I was growing up. I hope that you and your loved ones will enjoy them just as much.
  • 6 navel oranges
  • 2 c. sugar
  • 2 c. water
  • ¾ c. light corn syrup

Boil the whole navel oranges (unpeeled) in water for 1 hour. Cool them slightly and slice them into ½ inch thick pieces. Place in a single layer in a baking dish.

Combine the sugar, water, and corn syrup to create a sauce. Pour the sauce over the orange slices until they are almost covered.

Bake the slices in a 300 degree oven 1-1/2 hours. Store the slices in the refrigerator in their juice, covered. These will keep for 3 weeks ... if they last that long! They are terrific spooned over vanilla ice cream!

  • Yields: 10-12 servings
  • Preparation Time: 3 hours