The colorful riot of citrus in our markets makes me glad it’s winter (well, sort of). Consider those brilliant Cara Cara oranges, cheerful Meyer lemons, lusty blood oranges and ruby grapefruit, all in high season. Bursting with sweet tart refreshing flavors, they’re the best of the plant kingdom right now.

The Cara Cara navel, with thin orange skin and blushing deep orangey-pinkish flesh, is a bit sweeter than the ordinary Washington navel. It tastes of orange and blackberries.

I am a sucker for those small, festive blood oranges, whose magenta flesh has a tangy sharp edge. In Italy, blood oranges are the most popular table orange and the one most often squeezed for juice.

No doubt, these oranges make terrific snacks, but they’re great in salads and in main dishes, too. Toss orange sections into a pan of roasted root vegetables as they come from the oven. Spoon them over broiled or roasted fish. Sauté them into a pan of pork chops. Stuff orange slices into a chicken and baste with juice as it roasts.

Blood oranges and Cara Cara navels make winning salads, though it took me a while to accept that a “salad” doesn’t have to be green. They’re a terrific alternative to the weary lettuces in the markets these days.

The easiest way to peel the fruit is to cut off both ends at the poles to make a flat surface and stand it upright. Using a sharp paring knife, cut as close to the pulp as possible, working off the skin with its very bitter pith in strips. Work out the sections by slicing between the membranes, or slice the fruit into wheels (cutting those in half if they’re too big). Toss the sections with thinly sliced fennel, red onion, and/or beauty heart radishes, and arrange on a bed of spinach or mixed greens and drizzle with a little good olive or nut oil and a grind or two of salt and pepper.

Or, just serve them as they are. It’s that simple, it’s that good.

 

Beth Dooley is the author of “In Winter’s Kitchen.” Find her at bethdooleyskitchen.com.

Mixed Citrus Salad with Vanilla and Rosemary

Serves 4 to 6.

Note: This salad doubles as a starter or dessert. The rosemary’s piney notes and vanilla’s light floral flavor add a rich complexity. You can find individual vanilla beans in the bulk department of local food co-ops. Serve this salad as it is, or on a bed of spinach or mixed greens. Save the reserved juices for basting chickens, drizzling over roasted vegetables, for use in marinades and mixed drinks. From Beth Dooley.

• 2 Cara Cara oranges

• 2 blood oranges

• 1 (3-in.) sprig fresh rosemary

• 1 (3-in.) vanilla bean

• Sprinkle of sugar

• Pinch of coarse salt

 Pinch of cracked black pepper

Directions

Peel and section all of the oranges, holding the oranges over a bowl to catch the juices. Add the rosemary sprig. Then split the vanilla bean down the center seam and, using the back of a knife, scrape the seeds into the bowl and stir. Cover the bowl and place in refrigerator to allow the flavors to blend for at least an hour or overnight.

Serve the sections on individual serving plates or a serving platter, drizzled with a little of the juice.

Nutrition information per each of 6 servings:

Calories 35 Carbohydrates 9 g Protein 1 g Fat 0 g Saturated fat 0 g Cholesterol 0 mg Sodium 27 mg

Calcium 33 mg

Dietary fiber 2 g

Diabetic exchanges per serving: ½ fruit.