I have eaten more apples than I can count since the start of fall. But now, winter has arrived and I browse the produce department in wide-eyed pursuit of my favorite winter citrus fruits. I'm admittedly strange when it comes to eating citrus. The texture of the membranes and pith, especially on grapefruits, makes me gag. So it's no wonder I have become quite a fan of removing every last bit of the bitter white stuff before even thinking about taking a bite.
Segmenting citrus is a technique every home cook should know, as it allows for a vast array of beautiful embellishments to salads, custards and tarts, and is truly much simpler than it seems. For those of you who may not feel totally comfortable with this process, have no fear. Just as citrus is coming to its peak, Brian Samuels of the food and photography blog A Thought for Food has put together a detailed and vividly photographed how-to article on the basics of segmenting citrus.
There are only a few steps involved and I love to use a sharp, small paring knife for this job. First you cut off the two ends of the fruit, next you remove the peel and pith, then you simply slide your knife between the membrane and the segment until it falls away from the rest of the fruit.
You'll be left with beautiful crescents of plump, juice-filled sacs, free from any bitter white pith or peel. You can add these segments, or "supremes," to salads, smoothies and a countless array of desserts. Use the remaining juice in the bottom of the bowl to make a citrus vinaigrette or add it to simple syrup to make an aromatic and flavorful elixir to add to drinks.
One of my favorite winter salads uses segments of Cara Cara oranges and avocado slices in a bright dressing using the leftover orange juice, some good olive oil and a little salt and pepper. It's delicious on its own and makes for a great side dish to accompany chicken, tuna or red snapper.