All credit due to Chicago (and possibly global warming?), we barely had anything that qualifies as winter this year. A few days below freezing, a couple inches of snow–I only had to chip ice off my car once! I’m certainly not complaining (though watch us get a freak snowstorm next week).
Even so, by this time of year I am desperate for any fruit that 1) is not an apple and 2) actually tastes like something. Convenient then that just about every conceivable type of citrus is at its peak just in time to get me through to spring.
This recipe for oranges sweetened with sugar and soaked in their own juice, which I discovered flipping through Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking last month, is not only my ideal (and necessary) dose of vitamin C come mid-winter, it’s my new go-to dessert for a dinner party.
I’ll be honest, most of the time when I have people over, dessert is at the bottom of my priority list. I can bake when I get a craving, but if I’m making dinner for friends, I’m focused on the main course. Finding a recipe that complements the rest of the menu, dealing with the intricacies of baking, and trying not to induce a food coma by the end of the meal? No thank you.
These oranges, on the other hand, are dead simple and the most refreshing end to an indulgent meal. While it looks particularly pretty when you can mix up different colors and flavors of citrus (I used blood oranges, Cara-Cara oranges, and honey tangerines), it’s just as delicious with good, juicy, standard Navel oranges. Serve it alone or alongside a few biscotti to soak up the juice (or over a thin slice of Marcella Hazan’s ciambella). Perfection.
Barely modified from Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking. I like it best after about 8 hours of resting in the fridge, especially if I’m using a mix of oranges–the different flavors and colors are still distinct–but it tastes good even up to 48 hours. I reduced the sugar a bit since I prefer less-sweet desserts, but taste your oranges and adjust the sugar and lemon juice to your liking. Any juice leftover after serving is fantastic stirred into seltzer.
6 juicy oranges
1/4 cup sugar
Orange liqueur like Cointreau, optional
Remove the zest of four oranges and the lemon with a fine grater, avoiding the white pith as much as possible. (Alternatively, zest all of the oranges and add the extra zest to a jar with a cup or two of sugar–it’s delicious in oatmeal or in baking.)
Cut the ends off four oranges and carefully cut away the peel and pith. Slice the naked oranges into rounds about 1/2 inch thick, pick out and seeds. Place slices in a platter or serving dish deep enough to accommodate them and allow some space for stirring. Add the sugar and zest.
Juice the remaining two oranges and 1/2 of the lemon. Pour juice over the orange slices and stir gently to distribute the sugar. Taste and adjust the sweetness or tartness with more sugar or lemon juice. Cover and refrigerate for at least 4 hours or up to 48 hours, stirring occasionally.
Before serving, add a splash of orange liqueur if desired and stir once more.