During the week of Valentine’s Day, it was fun to find several items in the local markets with wonderful red hearts to share with you. Even though the special day has past, I consider the entire month of February a month for ideas of the heart, romance and everything red and pink.
Blood oranges — Among all the many citrus fruits that are coming to market right now, the blood orange is one of the unusual ones. Generally it is orange on the outside, but sometimes goes to orange with blushes of red on the skin. When you cut into it, the flesh is dark blood red in color.
The taste is slightly different from a traditional orange, having a bit of a raspberry finish after the orange-forward taste. Look for fruit that is heavy for its size, and be sure to peel them and check for seeds before putting them into items that are cooked or served in a dish.
The season can last from December through March, or even reach into June depending on the weather and source of the fruit. Store them in the refrigerator after you buy them.
Some ideas for serving include making a sauté of chicken breast with blood oranges, making a blood orange tart with a cookie crust and almond filling topped with the beautiful garnet fruit slices, or making a salad with the season’s wonderful chicories, avocado, and a neutral lettuce, all of which puts things in great harmony.
Of course the juice is delicious and such a vibrant color, that it makes an unusual and beautiful mimosa or other drink.
Watermelon radishes — Milder than a traditional red radish, these grow to quite a large size. Right now they are on the smaller size in the local farmers market, and I quite prefer them that way.
They range in size from smaller than a golf ball to as large as softball in size.
Fairly unremarkable in the market because of their creamy white to pale green color, the lovely part of this vegetable remains hidden inside until you cut into it.
Therefore preparations that show it off cut in some way or another are the preferred method.
A relative of the Chinese daikon radish, they pair well with fennel, apple, cheeses like feta and chevre, citrus, cilantro, mint and tarragon.
They are lovely pickled, cut into wedges and stir-fried in butter, and are a natural with seafood and sushi.
Using them as a garnish provides a bright pop of magenta color in the middle of the pale edges. Not only are they beautiful, but they are tasty as well, with a flavor reminiscent of green almonds along with the tiniest bit of radish bite.
The greens are edible as well, and you can add them to a salad, or stir-fry those by themselves or with the radishes.
If you like tartines or bruschetta, you can try making one with a miso-tahini spread, fresh whole-milk ricotta or mashed avocado, topped with chopped watermelon radish, sesame seeds and some sea salt.
Watermelon radishes will keep in your vegetable crisper for about a week, or possibly longer depending on where you get them.
THIS WEEK’S BLIND TASTING
Cabernet Sauvignon, the venerable statesman
Rodney Strong, 2015 Sonoma County Cabernet Sauvignon, 13.5% alcohol, $20. ★★★★
This is a cab that clearly overdelivers. It has generous fruit — black cherry and black raspberry — with herbs and spicy oak. It has good structure with firm tannins and a nice length.
J. Lohr, 2015 Hilltop, Paso Robles Cabernet Sauvignon, 14.9%, $35. ★★★★: This is a pretty cab with black raspberry fruit, herbs and spice, and the flavors meld together seamlessly. The cab has good balance, ripe tannins and a lingering finish. It’s well-crafted.
Duckhorn, 2014 Three Palms Vineyard, Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon, 14.9%, $98. ★★★★: This is a gorgeous cab with notes of black raspberry fruit, and notes of cinnamon and clove in the mix. It has a soft and supple texture, with ripe tannins. Nice length. Striking.
Cliff Lede, 2015 Stag’s Leap District, Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon, 15%, $78. ★★★★: This is a striking cab with complex aromas and flavors. It has notes of jasmine, black currant, blackberry, cinnamon and black pepper. The Cliff Lede has bright acidity and great balance. Top rate.
Justin, 2015 Paso Robles Cabernet Sauvignon, 14.5%, $25. ★★★1/2: This is a savory cab with dried herbs at the forefront, while cherry and black currant fruit play backup. What melds it together is a hint of caramel. Smart.