Citrus Recipes To Brighten Up A Winter Menu

Feb 25, 2014

Here & Now resident chef Kathy Gunst has been thinking citrus: blood oranges, cara cara oranges, grapefruits and Meyer lemons.

“Citrus is kind of this perfect food,” she tells host Jeremy Hobson. “It’s low in calories, high in potassium, tons of vitamin C.”

Citrus can be used in salads, to enhance meat or fish, in desserts and even drinks. Gunst brings in a variety of fruit to taste, as well as a Meyer lemon tart and a blood orange soda. She also shares four recipes:

Blood Orange Syrup

Kathy’s Note: Use a tablespoon or two of this gorgeous sweet syrup in fruit salads, on ice cream, or added to a glass of seltzer, sparkling white wine or Champagne for a delicious sweet citrus-flavored drink.


3 cups water

1 cup sugar

½ cup blood orange or orange juice


Bring the water to boil over high heat. Stir in the sugar, reduce the heat and let simmer about 12-16 minutes, or until the syrup reduces and thickens slightly. Add the juice and simmer another 5 minutes. Remove from heat and store in a well sealed glass jar in the refrigerator for at least a week.

Makes about 3 cups.

Chicken Salad with Blood Oranges, Candied Walnuts and Baby Spinach

Kathy’s Note: Use a deli-roasted chicken or leftover meat from a poached, roasted, or broiled chicken to make this vibrant winter salad. You can easily substitute tangerines, or regular oranges for the blood oranges in the salad, but you’ll miss the vibrant reddish-pink color and distinctively sweet flavor. Serve with hot crusty bread, muffins, or biscuits.


For the chicken:

4 tablespoons mayonnaise

1 tablespoon grated or finely chopped fresh ginger

4 tablespoons blood orange juice (from 1 large orange), or regular orange juice

1/8 teaspoon salt, or to taste

Generous grinding black pepper

2 cups cooked chicken, cut into thin strips or small cubes

1 blood orange, or regular navel orange

For the walnuts and the salad:

1 teaspoon butter

2/3 cup walnut halves

½ teaspoon salt, or to taste

Generous grinding of black pepper

1 tablespoon good-quality honey

About 2 cups baby spinach, spinach, arugula, or a mixture of your favorite greens, stems removed from larger leaves

1 tablespoon olive oil

½ tablespoon balsamic vinegar


In a medium bowl, mix the mayonnaise, ginger, orange juice, salt, and pepper. Gently mix in the chicken strips.

Peel the blood orange and separate into segments; cut each segment in thirds, removing the seeds. Gently fold half the orange segments into the chicken salad; set the remaining orange segments aside.

To toast the walnuts, heat the butter over medium heat in a small skillet. Add the walnuts, salt, and pepper and cook for 3 minutes, stirring frequently. Add the honey, stir well to coat the nuts, and cook for another minute.

Place the spinach on a medium-size serving plate. Place the chicken salad in the middle of the greens and scatter the reserved orange sections over the chicken salad and the greens. Scatter the walnuts all over the salad and drizzle the oil and vinegar over the greens. Serve cold or at room temperature.

Serves 3 to 4.

John’s Cross-Town Tropical Grapefruit, Avocado and Banana Salad


1 grapefruit, cut in half

1 orange, cut in half

6 large romaine leaves or 1 cup arugula

1 banana, peeled and sliced

1 ripe avocado, thinly sliced or cut into chunks

2 tablespoons lemon juice or wine vinegar

1/4 cup olive oil

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Using a small, sharp knife, remove the sections from the grapefruit and the orange, reserving the juices

Place the lettuce leaves on a serving plate. Top with the fruit and avocado.


In a small bowl mix the lemon juice or vinegar, reserved citrus juices, oil, salt and pepper. Spoon over salad.

Serves 4.

Meyer Lemon Tart

Kathy’s Note: This is an adaptation of a recipe for lemon bars from “The Model Bakery Cookbook” by Karen Mitchell and Sarah Mitchell Hansen with Rick Rodgers (Chronicle Books).



1/2 cup room temperature butter, cut into small pieces, plus butter for greasing the pan

1 cup all-purpose flour, plus flour for dusting the pan

1/4 cup confectioners’ sugar


1 cup granulated sugar

1/3 cup all-purpose flour

3 large eggs, at room temperature

1/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon Meyer or regular lemon juice (from 2-3 lemons)


Make the crust: Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Butter and lightly flour a 9-inch tart pan with a removable bottom.

In a large bowl whisk the flour and sugar. Add the butter and using your fingers or a pastry cutter blend the butter into the flour and sugar mixture until crumbly. Press the mixture into the bottom and sides of the tart pan. Bake on the middle shelf for around 20 minutes, or until the crust begins to turn golden. Remove from the oven and place on a cookie or baking sheet.

Make the filling: Whisk the sugar and flour together in a large bowl. Add the eggs and lemon juice and whisk until smooth. Pour over the hot crust and place the tart back on the middle shelf. Bake for about 22-25 minutes, or until the center seems set when you lightly jiggle the tart. Remove and let cool on a wire rack.

Serves 6 to 8.

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And sometimes when you go to the supermarket in the middle of winter, especially on the East Coast, it's a little upsetting, it's a little brown and not a lot of colorful fruits. But there are oranges and a lot of citrus and lemons and things like that, and that is what our resident chef Kathy Gunst has come to talk to us about today. Kathy, welcome back.

KATHY GUNST, BYLINE: Hello, Jeremy. I like that. It's - grocery stores - like let's just say...

HOBSON: A little depressing.

GUNST:'s totally depressing in the winter. And you have to really - you got to dig down deep and find some creativity in there.

HOBSON: Well, it smells incredible in the studio right now, all kinds of citrus.

GUNST: Yeah. We have a roomful of oranges and lemons and yellows and different shades of maroons and orange. It's very exciting to see color like this in the winter. But more importantly, it's very exciting to taste flavors like this. Citrus is kind of this perfect food. It's low in calories, high in potassium, tons of vitamin C. We all know that. Drink your orange juice. Take your orange.

HOBSON: It's true. You should.

GUNST: It is true, but it works. I'd rather eat this than pop those vitamins any day.


GUNST: And there's also vitamin A. So everyone knows about oranges.


GUNST: They originated in Asia, and by the 16th century, they were part of the European diet. And they have the most wonderful names. I mean, we know - you go to the store. Do you have oranges? OK, I'll buy the orange. But there are names like Bernas and Dream Navels, Hamlin, Jaffa, Kona, Parson Brown, and, of course, Valencia - for the famous Spanish city - the King of the Juice Oranges. One of my favorites, right in front you, it's this gorgeous maroony orange. This is the Cara Cara orange.

HOBSON: It looks sort of like a cross between an orange and a grapefruit.

GUNST: Exactly. It's got a red navel, a dark red color, very, very sweet. What's wonderful about this is it's very low in acid, so it makes great juicing orange. You could cut the segments out and throw them in with (unintelligible).

HOBSON: Am I supposed to taste this while you're talking about it?

GUNST: You're supposed to do whatever you want.

HOBSON: Can I just go for it like...

GUNST: Go for it. That's your plate of citrus. These are harvested.


GUNST: I know. Isn't that like wake-up call?


GUNST: Love them. Love them.

HOBSON: You know, it's funny because I said it looks kind of like a grapefruit. It tastes like an orange.

GUNST: So these are all types of sweet oranges that we're talking about. But there are also something called sour oranges, which are highly acidic, and they're used more for cooking than eating raw. The peel is what gives Grand Marnier its characteristic flavor. And sour oranges are what's used for making marmalades, which are quite bitter. The other gem is a blood orange.

HOBSON: I love blood orange, yes.

GUNST: So you have that in the fruit salad in front of you.

HOBSON: Oh, I do have fruit salad in front of me.

GUNST: These are very popular.


GUNST: Yeah, you do. Now, let me tell you about that. That's a little bit of all the citrus, cut up with some fresh mint.

HOBSON: All right.

GUNST: And then I made a blood orange syrup. I boiled some water.

HOBSON: You just gave me an idea, by the way...

GUNST: All right. That's what I'm here for.

HOBSON: ...which had not come to me before. Put mint in a fruit salad.

GUNST: An aha moment for Jeremy.

HOBSON: What a good idea. Yes.

GUNST: Isn't it?

HOBSON: Never again will I have a naked fruit salad.

GUNST: Ooh. OK. I'm not going to really respond to that.


GUNST: But mint and citrus is like a summer day. I'm a poet.

HOBSON: I still can't get over that.


HOBSON: OK. Yes. Mint is good. Continue.

GUNST: OK. We'll continue. OK. Well, I do all the work. He's just stuffing his face with this incredible fruit salad. I was telling you about the syrup. I took water and sugar, boiled it up, added some juice from a blood orange, and you get this gorgeous pink syrup. And I added just a touch of it to that fruit salad. Because the citrus is so sweet that blood oranges have a deep reddish color, ranging from, like, a burgundy to a pale maroon. They are available all winter. They are extraordinarily sweet. I - they taste like overripe berries. Love them.


GUNST: OK. Ready? We're moving on. The other one...


GUNST: He's laughing.

HOBSON: On we go.

GUNST: On we go.

HOBSON: We have a very strict regimen here.

GUNST: Enough of the eating. That's right.

HOBSON: Yes. Let's move along.

GUNST: Let's talk tangerines, Mandarins. They're also called clementines, tangelos, Satsuma or Japanese seedless variety. Tangerines, all winter long, great for juice, great for puddings and tarts. I eat so many tangerines. It's just crazy.

HOBSON: I eat a lot of clementines.

GUNST: Clementines are delicious also.

HOBSON: Because they're so easy to peel.

GUNST: Yeah, they are so easy to peel. And that is a very good point. So when I made you that salad, I just used a knife. You always want to take away the rind. I want to talk about that for a minute.


GUNST: I brought a peeler here. And I'm just going to show you - you have a piece of rind in front of you.


GUNST: So look what happens when you peel off the rind, which is orange, you get to a whitish area. That's called a pith, and it's quite bitter, and you don't want that. So when a recipe calls for grating or peeling zest, you only want the orange or the lemon part.

HOBSON: And if you work at a fancy bar in New York City, then you take the rind and you burn it with a match or something like that. And then you put it on a $15 cocktail.

GUNST: OK. But let's do a cheap version of that. I gave you a peel. I want you to just close your eyes and squeeze it and let the tangerine oil float up and wake up...

HOBSON: Just this rind, you want me to squeeze it?

GUNST: Yes. I want you just to smell that oil. It's like aroma therapy. Are you happy now?

HOBSON: Yes. I'm transported.

GUNST: Don't you feel great?


GUNST: All right. Let's talk grapefruit.


GUNST: Grapefruit, a cross between an orange and a pomelo, grown all over the tropics and subtropical areas, a little bit acid, but wonderful in salads. My husband was on a crosstown bus in New York City and heard a Hispanic woman talking about the salad of banana, avocado and grapefruit segments. He makes it all winter long now.

HOBSON: Wow. And, of course, you can also just have it for breakfast if you have one of those spiky spoons.

GUNST: Yeah. (Unintelligible) and bring the spiky spoon.


GUNST: Then there's this thing called the pomelo. That's in front of you. That's the largest citrus in the world, sweeter than grapefruit.

HOBSON: Best thing right here.

GUNST: That giant. Yup. Looks like a giant grapefruit.

HOBSON: Yeah. It's very big.

GUNST: And this was grown in China as early as 100 B.C. They're sweeter than grapefruits and, again, less acidity. So great to cook with. Now, lemons.


GUNST: As those of you have been listening to me now, I am like a crazy fan of Meyer lemon. Meyer lemon are like a cross between an orange and a lemon. Great for vitamin C, was named after scientist Frank Meyer in Florida. And I have one in front of you that's cut. If you smell it, it's like - to me, this is better than a bouquet of roses.


GUNST: I love them. And again, they're fabulous to cook with. Last night, I did sautéed scallops with blood orange juice and Meyer lemon juice, and it was insanely good.

HOBSON: You know, I was out to dinner with a group of people, and somebody - we ordered some appetizer. And somebody squeezed a lemon all over it and asked first if she could squeeze the lemon all over the food. And I thought to myself: Has anyone ever said no to putting lemon on something? I don't think so.


GUNST: Also, what I love to do with Meyer lemon on a cold winter day is boil some hot water, squeeze a whole Meyer lemon into it with some honey. If you feel sore throat coming on, magic.


GUNST: Just great stuff. You also can make desserts with these things. You have before you.


GUNST: A Meyer lemon tart.

HOBSON: Oh, you know my number here. Wow. OK.

GUNST: I am extremely excited about this tart. It is so simple. And I'm not kidding, I am not an extraordinary baker, but pretty darn good, huh?

HOBSON: Absolutely. This is amazing.

GUNST: How about a chicken salad with orange segments in a Meyer lemon juice with fresh herbs and olive oil?


GUNST: As we get to grilling season, a really cool trick is cut a lemon or a lime in half, throw it on the grill, flesh side down. Grill it for a few minutes. And when you squeeze the juice on seafood, vegetables, you get a smoky, citrusy flavor.

HOBSON: Mm. That's a great idea.

GUNST: Quick tip.

HOBSON: Just throw it right on the grill.

GUNST: Exactly.

HOBSON: Well, there is one more thing here, Kathy. And that is a drink.

GUNST: It is a drink. Again, that's...

HOBSON: Non-alcoholic.

GUNST: Not, but it doesn't need to be.


GUNST: But it is for today. This is a wonderful homemade soda. You put your blood orange syrup into a glass with ice, and you add seltzer.

HOBSON: All right.

GUNST: It could be Prosecco. It could be a sparkling white wine. It could have some rum in it. It could have some vodka in it. But what you have now is a blood - oh, good. I love the sound of that.

HOBSON: Yep. Just mixing it up here.

GUNST: So you have a homemade blood orange soda. And it takes you an all of 10 minutes to make.

HOBSON: Mm. Transports me right to Italy, doesn't it?

GUNST: Oh, it sounds good.

HOBSON: Kathy Gunst, our resident chef. And we've got all of these recipes up at, including the one for this lemon tart, which, I think, I'm going to go home and make right now.

GUNST: All right.

HOBSON: Kathy, thanks so much.

GUNST: Thanks, Jeremy.


HOBSON: See, aren't you just transported to Italy, Meghna?


A hot Italian summer in the middle of this endless winter.

HOBSON: And you can have some of this tart, by the way, and all of these fruits that are left over here from Kathy. From NPR and WBUR Boston, I'm Jeremy Hobson.

CHAKRABARTI: I'm Meghna Chakrabarti. This is HERE AND NOW. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.