I was in my home village of Castripignano, Italy. This ancient mountaintop village with a population of just over a thousand always floods my mind with memories of when my grandparents were alive. Oh how I miss them.
I visit the town as often as I can and there is a small bar in the main piazza of town. It’s the busiest place in town because the only road in and out of town runs right through it. Langolo Blue Caffé and Bar is the size of a postage stamp, it’s dark and dank of cigarette smoke but it’s here where you’ll find the most delicious culinary treasures.
One day I ordered an innocent glass of orange juice. How excited was I when I watched the bar owner grab a few blood oranges that were sitting beautifully in a bowl on the counter. He sliced them in half and juiced them by hand into a beautiful tall glass. When he was done he added a spoonful of sugar, stirred it up and sat it in front of me. They do things so simply there.
I returned every day for another glass of the sweet addictive drink! Oh, yum! But here I am living in Canada and I couldn’t be further from a blood orange orchard to feed my insatiable thirst for the deliciously sweet juice that tastes like ultra sweet oranges and raspberries combined.
Right now is blood orange season and you’ll find the small, pitted oranges with swirls of brick red running around the traditional orange colour. Slice them open and the deep ruby red colour with white pith running through the flesh is beautiful. It makes you feel good just to look at it.
I like to cook with the ruby pink juice. Margaritas have never tasted better and sorbet of blood orange and Campari is divine! My company loves my blood orange squares and just this weekend I made a delicious blood orange tart.
Blood orange season is a short window, perhaps 6 to 8 weeks and then they’re gone. Originating from Italy and Spain, they’re now grown in California. The California or the Moro variety of blood oranges are the sweetest and deepest in colour of all blood oranges and most readily available in my neck of the woods.
Right now is the tail end of winter, but so far it shows no signs of giving up. Thank goodness we have blood oranges to brighten up our day and fill us with heart-warming memories.
Blood Orange Tart
1 cup (250 mL) sugar cookies processed into fine crumbs
½ teaspoon (2.5 mL) ground cinnamon
½ cup (125 mL) butter, melted
3 blood oranges
½ cup (125 mL) sugar (more or less, depending on how sweet or bitter your oranges are)
½ cup (125 mL) butter, cubed
Lightly grease a 10-inch flan pan. Combine the cookie crumbs, cinnamon and melted butter in a bowl. Combine well and press into the base and sides of the prepared pan. Refrigerate for approximately 30 minutes to set.
To make the blood orange curd, grate the rind of 1 blood orange and juice all 3. Whisk eggs and sugar together until well combined. Add blood orange rind and juice (you should have about 3/4 cup) and whisk to combine. Place bowl over a pan of simmering water and stir with a wooden spoon for 20 to 25 minutes or until thick and pudding-like. Do not let the mixture boil or it will curdle. Remove from heat and whisk in the butter. Stir until it is meted.
Pour the blood orange curd into the chilled tart shell. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight. When ready to serve, dust with plenty of icing sugar and garnish with blood orange rind. Makes 1 tart.