Moro blood oranges bring a seasonal flair to an Enoteca Molinari salad.
Has there ever been a more geographically descriptive ingredient than the blood orange? The citrus with the strikingly dark orange-tinted — verging on reddish-purple-tinted — flesh evokes the hot weather and the famed fiery temperament of the Italian islanders of Sicily, where at least one variation of the fruit is believed to have originated.
It’s strictly the echo of summer, however, that makes the blood orange one of Enoteca Molinari-owner Joe Madison’s favorite ingredients and the star of his Rockridge Italian eatery’s seasonal winter salad, the Insalata Siciliana.
“The color is really cool, and the addition of these little red oranges makes [the dish] a little exotic,” he said. “At that time of year, it’s difficult to find bright colorful fruits, so it makes a nice counter to winter. It’s like it almost feels like summer.”
Specifically, Madison waits for the Moros, the most intensely dark and colorful of the blood orange varietals, to come into season — which in California lasts roughly from mid-December through March. It’s not just the color that appeals to Madison.
“They’re a little juicier and the flavor is better,” he said. “Some oranges are too sweet, but the Moro is a little more tart, and it has this flavor that’s hard to explain: It almost has a red berry, raspberry quality to it.”
At Molinari, Moros have been a staple on the winter menu since the intimate wine bar and restaurant opened in late 2010, first under the direction of Executive Chef Steve Jaramillo and now with Angelo Verde, who took over in 2012.
As for the Insalata Siciliana, it exemplifies what Madison loves about Italian cuisine, namely using fresh ingredients, with contrasting notes, that are simply presented. The sweet, juicy Moros play off the crunchy shaved fennel, while imported Gaeta olives lend savory brininess and the lemon vinaigrette some tart acidity. Thinly sliced (and occasionally pickled) sweet red onions complete the dish.
1 Moro blood orange, sliced; cut off the skin past the pith before slicing.
1 bulb fennel, thinly sliced (save the tops for garnish)
Handful Gaeta olives (other black olives can be substituted)
1 sweet red onion, thinly sliced
Olive oil (Partanna)
pinch of salt and pepper
Mix lemon and olive oil in a roughly 3-to-1 ratio for lemon vinaigrette, adding salt and pepper to taste. Add orange, fennel, olives, and onion to a bowl and mix with vinaigrette. Plate and add fennel to the top for garnish.
Enoteca Molinari, 5474 College Ave., Oakland, 510-428-4078 Enoteca-Molinari.com