Fruit expert David Karp loves to tell the story about a homeowner who was shocked several years ago to discover that she had a blood orange tree in her backyard. She called the cops because she was sure someone was trying to poison her.
It’s hard to imagine that kind of reaction today. Blood oranges -- whether they’re the deep crimson Moros, or the less vibrantly colored but usually tastier Taroccos or Sanguinellis -- are one of the most sought-after fruits of winter.
Let’s not pretend that looks have nothing to do with it. Even when they have no more flavor than a run-of-the-mill navel, blood oranges lend drama to any dish. But if you get a really good one – sweet and tart in perfect balance, with a nice berry-flavored kick – you can see what the fuss is really all about.
Incidentally, the connection between deep red color and berry flavor is actually tenuous. Both blood oranges and raspberries get their color from a naturally occurring pigment called anthocyanin, but it’s nearly flavorless.
But because this pigment doesn’t react well to heat (it turns from vivid crimson to bruised purple), you’re best off using blood oranges in dishes that are raw or only very briefly cooked. One classic dish, happily simple to prepare, is a salad of sliced blood oranges with shaved fennel and black olives -- dressed only with a little very good olive oil.
How to choose: Unfortunately, there’s no reliable way to predict from the outside how deeply colored the inside of a blood orange will be. You pays your money and you takes your chances. So select them just as you would any other orange – you want fruit that’s heavy for its size and that’s firm, with no soft spots.
How to store: Blood orange peels are somewhat thinner than that of some other orange varieties, so it’s best to store these in the refrigerator, wrapped in a plastic bag.