Cold sheets of rain were lashing the harbor wall on that first morning in Ortygia on the southeastern coast of Sicily. But inside the breakfast room at the Hotel Gutkowski, the sun was dazzling, taking the form of garnet juice shimmering with color as vibrant as a Gauguin sunset. As the guests jostled to take their spots at the self-service electric juicer, a small mountain of blood oranges stood at the ready. This is citrus that’s used to attracting attention.
Blood oranges have a blush skin and deeply red pigmented flesh that’s sweet, floral, sometimes with hints of raspberry. They are, in short, exquisite. Wildly popular in Italy, they are thought to be the result of a mutation that occurred in 17th century Sicily, according to Food Reference.com
Lucky for us, blood oranges are now cultivated in California and Texas so we can find them at fruitstands and some supermarkets. Italian imports are sometimes available in specialty stores.
At this time of year, oranges step easily into the role that tomatoes play in summer salads. The flavors are tart-sweet, the flesh soft and juicy. To make a Sicilian style salad with oranges, in a large bowl, whisk some extra virgin olive oil, a squeeze of blood orange juice, and some Kosher or sea salt. Add arugula, baby spinach, romaine or other greens, some thinly sliced red onions, and chunks or slices of blood orange wedges. Toss to coat with dressing and grind on some black pepper.