Oranges were a gift, first presented to Europe by Hernando de Soto (ca. 1500- 1542), a Spanish conquistador. Senor de Soto was known for many things, most of which were not good. However, he is also known for introducing oranges and citrus fruits to the old world, which was at least one redeeming quality. It was Senor de Soto who brought the first orange trees to St. Augustine, Florida, and the rest is history. We all know Florida is the sunshine state, famous for its oranges and other citrus fruits that are eaten and enjoyed all over the world.
Oranges originated in Southeast Asia and were first cultivated there 6,000 years ago. Cultivation in China began around 2400 B.C. The Arabs introduced them to the Mediterranean region about 1000 A.D. Today they are found in warm weather areas all over the globe. The US and Brazil are the largest producers. Interestingly, the word “orange” meaning the color, comes from the fruit and not vice versa.
There are three general categories of oranges: sweet, loose skinned and bitter. Sweet oranges, such as the Navel or Valencia, are best eaten fresh and are prized for their juice. Their skins are somewhat resistant to peeling. Blood oranges are an interesting type of sweet orange, their sanguineous name arising from their crimson hue. Loose skinned oranges, as the name implies, are easier to decorticate. Mandarins and tangerines, (a sub-type of mandarin orange), are well known loose skinned varieties. Their taste is slightly tarter than sweet oranges. Finally bitter oranges, such as Seville or Bergamot, are sour and usually not eaten raw. They are best for cooking, made into marmalade, candying their peels, and infusing liqueurs such as Curacao.
Oranges are very popular all around the world and are used from just eating by themselves to enhancing many dishes, both savory and sweet. Today, I did both and cooked something savory and sweet with oranges. When I say cooking orange, I am not meaning to necessarily cook orange foods, although that is interesting too. I am more talking about adding orange flavorings, orange juice and/or orange zest to foods. I was in kind of an “orangey” mood when it came time for dinner, so I first made orange pork chops and finished with making an orange cake. I did, however, cook some pumpkin, mixed with other vegetables, for the orange color as well though.
My orange pork chops were very easy to make and very tasty. They were also super tender, and practically melted in our mouths. I was inspired from an Italian cookbook, so the Italian name for my orange pork chops is Arrosto All’ Arancia. It always sounds so much more exotic and romantic in Italian than in English. Oh well, maybe I am just a romantic at heart.
Arrosto All’ Arancia
I used pork chops for this dish, but you can also use a pork loin too if you prefer.
2 lbs pork, either chops or loin
3 TBSP butter
1 1 /2 cups orange juice
1 tsp orange zest
1 TBSP garlic
1 tsp chili poowder
1 tsp chocolate chili powder, optional
1 tsp dried orgeano
salt & pepper to taste
Mix all the ingredients together and marinate the pork for at least 1 hour before cooking. The longer you marinate it, the more flavorful and tender it will be be. I marinated mine for about 4 hours.
When you are ready to cook the meat, preheat the oven to 350* F or 180* C.
Melt some butter and oil in a hot skillet and sear the meat until it is browned on all sides. Then place it in the oven and roast until the internal temperature of the pork is 160* F. The times will vary depending on whether you are cooking a pork loin or pork chops.
When the pork is done, serve it alongside your favorite side dishes and top with some of the remaining juices. I served mine over white rice with some roasted winter vegetables on the side, finished with a delicious, buttery chardonnay. !Deliziosa! Buon Appetito!
Stay safe and stay well Everyone. ‘Til next time.