The Main Menu: Citrus fruits add splashes of sunshine to winter recipes

Orange and carrot soup is hearty, flavourful and ready in minutes. It's a perfect dish to bring some sunshine on cold winter days, writes food columnist Jan Main.


It’s no accident that the hardest winter months, January and February, have an abundance of citrus fruits: clementine, navel oranges, mandarins, grapefruits, pomelos and lemons, to add zip to our cooking, vitamins for our well being and sunshine to bleak days.

Use the entire fruit, both the skin and the juice to maximize flavour in cooking. Of course, the skin is an integral part of marmalade made historically from Seville oranges in January.

However, zest from any citrus fruit, but especially oranges and lemons can be grated, wrapped in plastic wrap then stored in a jar in the refrigerator or freezer to add to zest to your recipes.

If you have the grated rind on hand, you can add it automatically to soups, chicken, fish and baking recipes.

Likewise, the squeezed citrus juice is an integral part of vinaigrettes (recipe below) marinades and baking.

Let nothing go to waste. Both the zest and the juice give that enlivening zing, that splash of sunshine!

Carrot and Orange Soup

This simple soup requires that common carrot, a source of fibre, carotene and vitamin C, tarted up with orange to give a hearty, flavourful soup ready in minutes for the lunch thermos, or equally at home, for a special dinner.

2 lbs (1 kg) carrots, peeled and coarsely chopped. About 6 large carrots
1 onion, chopped
1 celery stalk, chopped
1 bay leaf
1L (4 cups) chicken stock
2 cups (500 mL) water
1 orange, washed and peeled with vegetable peeler
1 tsp (5 mL) salt
1/2 tsp (2 mL) fresh black pepper and ground ginger
1 large can (354 mL) evaporated milk

Tip: Evaporated milk has twice the calcium of milk and the creamy quality of whipping cream with none of the fat.

In large stainless-steel saucepan add carrots, onion, celery, bay leaf, chicken stock, and orange rind. Cook over medium high heat until carrots are very tender about 25 minutes. Discard bay leaves.

Puree soup in blender until smooth; add salt, pepper, ginger and evaporated milk. Puree until well blended.

Serve at once garnished with a dollop of plain yogurt or sour cream and a sprinkle of grated orange rind.

Alternatively, cover and refrigerate until ready to serve. Keeps refrigerated for up to 4 days. Freeze for longer storage in freezer storage containers. Makes about 10 cups (2.25 L), about 8 generous servings.

Orange Walnut Bread

This classic is wonderful added to a packed lunch or with a cup of tea in the afternoon. It is a natural snack sliced thinly and served with your favourite cheese.

1 egg
1 cup (250 mL) orange juice
2 tbsp (25 mL) vegetable oil
1 tsp (5 ml) vanilla
1 cup (250 mL) raisins, chopped
2 tbsp (25 mL) grated orange rind
2 cups (500 mL) all-purpose flour
1 tsp (5 mL) baking powder
1/2 tsp (2 mL) each, baking soda and salt
1 cup (250 mL) granulated sugar
1 cup (250 mL) coarsely chopped walnuts

Preheat oven to 350 F (180 C) Line 9 x 5 (2L) loaf pan with parchment paper.

Beat egg, orange juice, vegetable oil and vanilla together. Stir in raisins and orange rind.

In separate bowl, stir together flour, baking powder, soda, salt and sugar.

Stir liquid ingredients into flour mixture just until moistened. Fold in walnuts.

Spoon batter into prepared pan. Smooth to level. Bake about 50-55 minutes or until toothpick inserted in centre comes out clean. Cool on rack. Slice once cool. Makes about 16 slices.

Orange Vinaigrette

This salad dressing is ideal for winter root vegetables such as blanched carrots, cooked beets or a spinach salad with added clementine segments, almonds and slivers of red pepper.

It also makes a great marinade for chicken or fish.

1 cup (250 mL) vegetable oil
1/2 cup (125 mL) fresh orange juice
2 tbsp (25 mL) liquid honey
1 tbsp (15 mL) grated orange zest
1 clove minced garlic
1 tsp (5 mL) salt
1/4 tsp (1 mL) fresh black pepper

In a blender or food processor, combine vegetable oil, orange juice, honey, orange zest, garlic, salt and pepper. Puree until well blended.

Pour into glass jar and refrigerate until ready to use. Will keep for up to 1 week. Makes 1 ½ (375 mL).

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