February is prime blood orange season, which spans December through March or April. With their Gothic purple flesh, and floral sour-berry sherbet flavor, they’re oranges of the night: fruit fit for vampires.
“I am in love with blood oranges,” says Hilary Johnson Desmond of Kashkaval Garden in Hell’s Kitchen. “There’s a complexity to them that you don’t always get with regular oranges, which makes them perfect for salad dressings. The color is so unexpected and beautiful. And, of course, they go perfectly with tequila — a blood orange margarita is one of life’s great pleasures.”
When picking out blood oranges, look for fruits that seem heavy for their size. “That’s a good indicator that they’re packed with juice,” says Desmond. “They should be firm to the touch, and their skin should be taut and smooth, not crepey or spongy.”
You can find a frozen blood orange margarita on the menu at El Vez (259 Vesey Street, 212-233-2500), and blood orange matched to avocado and beets in a salad at Good Restaurant (89 Greenwich Avenue, 212-691-8080).
Some additional ideas:
Margaritas, obviously. Desmond makes a rosemary blood orange margarita — muddle rosemary and sugar, add tequila and juice, shake over ice, and strain into chilled glasses.
Sliced oranges and thinly sliced fennel are the basis of a traditional Sicilian salad — just add sea salt, dress with olive oil, and scatter toasted hazelnuts over for added crunch.
Marinate chicken thighs in blood orange juice, a couple of cloves of smashed garlic, and some olive oil. Roast with wedges of red onion and orange. Serve with a squeeze of juice and a sprinkling of chopped flat-leaf parsley to freshen the dish up.
Grill some lamb chops, and serve with a salsa of chopped blood oranges, cucumber, mint, cilantro, red onion, and a pinch of sugar.
Sauté some salmon in a little butter. Add a handful of pitted green olives to warm through. Deglaze the pan with a generous squeeze of blood orange juice.
“Recently I’ve been playing with baking thin slices drizzled with olive oil and salt. They go caramelized and crispy, like candy. It’s so pretty, and such a concentrated flavor. Chop them up and add them to salads,” Desmond suggests.