Sunshine in Winter
I've always found it counterintuitive that the citrusy bounty of such locales as Florida and Southern California is at its best during the drabbest months of the year. But so it is, and it's a good thing, too, for it brings a bit of sunshine to both plate and palate while we await the abundance of the spring and summer harvest at market. Of course, lemons, limes, oranges, and grapefruits are available year-round, but pink-fleshed cara cara oranges, deep ruby blood oranges, syrupy sweet tangerines, lip-puckering kumquats, are among the multitudes of citrus fruits currently available to lend a poignant tanginess to your winter fare. One of the best ways to make use of winter fruit for both flavor and visual impact is to section them. Why would you want to do this? Because you get all of the goodness while leaving the (mostly bitter) rest of the fruit behind. And it's an easy way to gussy up a plate in a hurry. Citrus sections are especially choice accessories for fish, pork, steamed vegetables, and (of course) hearty salads. And it couldn't be simpler to retrieve them. First you cut the top and bottom off of your fruit. Then--and this is the key step for maximum yield-- peel them by cutting along the white pith in small increments. I pretty much try to make one cut per orange section and find that a serrated knife works best. Once you have your skinless fruit, use a paring knife to separate the sections keeping as close to the membrane as possible. Discard any seeds. Voila!! You've mastered the bane of countless kitchen stagiaires throughout the ages. Without anyone yelling.